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2 jail escapees captured in Castaic

The men, on trial in a string of San Fernando Valley and Hollywood armed robberies, were caught after reportedly asking people for clothes.

April 29, 2010|By Richard Winton and Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies Wednesday captured two maximum security inmates who escaped earlier in the day from a Castaic jail where they were being held during their trial for a string of armed robberies.

Winder Barrios and Jose Aldana were taken into custody without incident about half a mile from the jail about 14 hours after they were reported missing from the North County Correctional Facility, Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

The men were detained about 5 p.m. at Hasley Canyon Road and Commerce Center Drive after residents reported two men asking people to give them clothes, he said. The escapees were found in a storage container.

It was unclear how the men, both 24 and from Van Nuys, made their escape. Both were working on a jail loading dock about 1 a.m. with access to trucks making deliveries to the facility when they fled. Barrios and Aldana were discovered missing during a 3:15 a.m. head count.

A spokesman for Supervisor Mike Antonovich said Wednesday night that the two escapees were illegal immigrants. The spokesman, Tony Bell, said the supervisor would be calling for an investigation into the circumstances of the escape, including what role the federal government may have played in checking the men's immigration status.

The sheriff's internal affairs unit and a county watchdog agency are investigating why the men were given the positions of trust at the facility.

Michael Gennaco, head of county's Office of Independent Review, said it is "common sense" that men on trial in a serious criminal case should not be assigned to work together. "It raises some red flags," he said.

Both men had to be given a special trusty inmate designation to work on the loading dock. Gennaco questioned their eligibility given the charges they face.

Whitmore acknowledged that the escape raises questions about why the inmates were placed on the detail together.

The men escaped the day after three witnesses identified them in court as culprits in a series of robberies in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

On March 27, 2009, the men allegedly broke into an Encino home, tied up the housekeeper at gunpoint and stole computers and televisions. When the homeowner's daughter arrived during the robbery, she was also tied up, Robison said.

On March 26 and 30, 2009, the men drove up to several cars in Hollywood, threatened the occupants with a shotgun and stole their possessions, she said.

Aldana also faces a charge of sexual battery linked to a March 26 holdup, according to the charge sheet.

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