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Virginia inmates who dug out of jail using toothbrush captured at IHOP

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Two Virginia inmates escaped from jail using a toothbrush to dig a tunnel through their cell wall before heading to IHOP.

John M. Garza, 37, and Arley V. Nemo, 43, were found to be missing from their cell Monday at around 7:15 p.m., according to the Newport News Sheriff’s Office. The two were apprehended in the city of Hampton early Tuesday morning at an IHOP location seven miles from the Newport News jail.

The sheriff’s office conducted a preliminary investigation in which it was determined that the men took advantage of a “construction design weakness” by using “primitive-made tools constructed from a toothbrush and metal object” that helped them gain access to untied rebars between the walls.

They then used the rebar to create a hole in the wall and climb through, the sheriff’s office said. Once the men were outside their jail cell, they scaled the containment wall and fled the area.

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John Garza and Arley Nemo were arrested at an IHOP after escaping from their jail cell. (Newport News Sheriff’s Office)

Police arrested them at the IHOP in Hampton just hours after they escaped, using tips from citizens who noticed them at the restaurant.

“I extend my gratitude to the Newport News Police Department, the Hampton Police Department, and the James City County Police Department for their assistance in our attempt to recapture these inmates,” Sheriff Gabe Morgan said in a statement. “Moreover, I’m thankful for the citizens who observed Garza and Nemo at the IHOP and notified law enforcement. It reinforces what we always say, ‘see something, say something.'”

Garza had been in custody on several charges, including contempt of court, probation violations and failure to appear. Nemo was also being held on multiple charges, including credit card fraud, credit card larceny, forgery, possession of burglary tools, grand larceny, contempt of court and probation violation.  

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The inmates used a toothbrush and metal object to dig a tunnel through their jail cell wall.

The inmates used a toothbrush and metal object to dig a tunnel through their jail cell wall. (Newport News Sheriff’s Office)

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Both men are expected to face additional charges for their escape.

A Newport News facility management and engineering team are reviewing ways to ensure the facility’s security.

The sheriff’s office said it is conducting a criminal and internal investigation to reduce the odds of another escape.



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