ALERT OFFICERS FOIL ESCAPE CONSPIRACY AT COUNTY DETENTION CENTER

ALERT OFFICERS FOIL ESCAPE CONSPIRACY AT COUNTY DETENTION CENTER

Two Doña Ana County Detention Center detainees are facing new felony charges related to an attempted escape Friday, March 2, 2001, in which one man attempted to have himself released from the facility by assuming the identity of the other.
Dominic Gonzales, 24, attempted to pass himself off as Juan Esparza-Estrada, 39. Estrada was supposed to have been released on bond that day, but when detention officers entered the cell area where both men were being held and called out Estrada’s name, Gonzales came forward. According to detention officers, Estrada was awake and alert when Gonzales came forward, and Estrada made no attempt to notify the officers that they were about to process the wrong man for release on bond.
During the release processing, alert detention center officers noticed discrepancies between the data sheet description of Estrada and the physical characteristics of Gonzales. When questioned, Gonzales knew Estrada’s date of birth, but he could not provide Estrada’s Social Security number. In short order, using tattoo information and other identifying criteria, the detention officers confirmed that an identity switch was being attempted.
An independent investigation by the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office resulted in both men being charged with additional crimes. Estrada – who already was facing charges for failure to pay fines, no driver’s license and being in possession of an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle – was charged with two third-degree felonies: assisting an escape and conspiracy to assist an escape. Bond was set at $25,000 cash.
Gonzales, a convicted felon who was being temporarily held in the detention center pending his testimony in a court case, was charged with attempted escape and conspiracy to commit an escape. Following his testimony and arraignment on the new charges, Gonzales will be returned to the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, where he is serving a 30-year sentence for armed robbery. His record also shows that he successfully escaped in 1995 from the Bernalillo County Detention Center.
Doña Ana County Detention Center Administrator Alfonso Solis commended his staff for thwarting the escape attempt.
“These people did a great job of sniffing out an attempted escape by a guy who knew what he was doing,” Solis said. “As busy as they are booking and releasing people all day, these officers didn’t cut any corners and they didn’t let themselves get distracted. They processed the release by the book, and their attention to detail prevented a bad guy from walking away under an assumed name. I’m very proud of the staff of this facility.”
A Sheriff’s Office investigation into the matter is continuing, and will include a screening of telephone calls that may have been made by either man prior to the escape attempt. If the investigation reveals that either man conspired with other individuals outside the detention center to facilitate the escape attempt, the outside parties could be charged, as well.