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    Sunday, June 16, 2024

    Inmates dig out of jail with toothbrush, get caught at IHOP, officials say

    It might have been a toothbrush that enabled two inmates to escape from a Virginia jail this week, but their quick recapture may have stemmed from a need to sink their teeth into something filling, according to an official account.

    The two who fled Monday from a jail annex in Newport News, by making a cavity in a wall with the aid of a toothbrush, were recaptured within hours at an IHOP, the sheriff's office said, ending their brush with liberty.

    The yarn, which offered a good deal to chew on, began Monday at the Newport News Jail Annex, according to the sheriff's office in the Tidewater-area city.

    The two inmates dug out a hole in the wall there with makeshift tools, listed as "a toothbrush and metal object," the sheriff's office said. The metal object was not described in detail, but presumably the toothbrush was similar to those in general use.

    Those "primitive-made" tools gave the inmates access to untied rebar behind the jail walls; rebar was used to further facilitate the escape, the sheriff's office said. Then it was a matter of scaling an outer wall to flee, the sheriff's office said.

    During a routine head count about 7:15 p.m. Monday, authorities discovered that the inmates were not in their cell. A search began.

    A tip from the public apparently led authorities to the IHOP in Hampton, a neighboring city. It was unclear whether the inmates were attempting to dine in jail garb.

    They were arrested early Tuesday by Hampton police and, within a matter of hours, were back in custody, the sheriff's office said.

    The sheriff's office identified the two as John M. Garza, 37, and Arley V. Nemo, 43. Garza, who lives in Hampton, had been in custody on several charges, including contempt of court, probation violations, and failure to appear, the sheriff's office said.

    Nemo, a Gloucester resident, was being held on numerous charges including credit card fraud, credit card larceny, forgery, possession of burglary tools, grand larceny, contempt of court, and probation violation, the sheriff's office said.

    A preliminary investigation showed the men took advantage of a "construction-design weakness" to start their escape, the sheriff's office said. For security reasons, additional details of the escape would not be released, the sheriff's office said.

    That left a number of questions unanswered. One or two seemed of obvious interest, even for people living far from Southeastern Virginia.

    The first, of course, is the brand of toothbrush that was used. The other is what it was on the IHOP menu that prevented the fugitives from putting a greater distance between themselves and those searching for them.

    A photograph was released of the hole allegedly made by the inmates. Dimensions were not easily inferred, but it looked like a fairly standard hole, oval in shape, with irregular edges.

    It was not clear how much was dug out of the wall with the toothbrush.

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