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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | COUNTYWIDE

Work Crew Escapee Mistakenly Released

April 14, 1999|STEVE CHAWKINS

California Youth Authority officials mistakenly arranged the release from jail of an 18-year-old burglar who had been picked up after an escape last week from a CYA work crew in Ojai, officials disclosed Tuesday.

Larry Sanchez Jr. was released from Ventura County Jail late Monday afternoon. The error was not discovered until Tuesday morning, when he was to be arraigned in the escape.

"Plain and simple, a mistake was made in this case," said CYA Director Greg Zermeno. "All efforts are focused on finding Sanchez and ensuring that something like this does not happen again."

The mistake occurred in the aftermath of a major shake-up at the Camarillo facility, where several top officials have been either fired or transferred.

Sarah Ludeman, a spokeswoman for the youth authority at its Sacramento headquarters, said Sanchez's release was the result of "a miscommunication from our people to the sheriff's office."

She said a CYA employee ordered the lifting of an order to hold Sanchez. The employee apparently thought Sanchez already had been returned to the CYA's youth prison in Camarillo, she said.

Serving time at CYA for a burglary in Orange County with the use of a firearm, Sanchez on April 5 walked away from a 17-member work crew that was cutting brush on Foothill Road in Ojai.

He was picked up three days later in Santa Ana during a traffic stop and returned to Ventura County.

A warrant has been issued for Sanchez's arrest. He is described as 5 feet 10 and 150 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. He has a 2-inch scar on his left forearm.

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