Escape prompts work detail freeze

By Christina Calloway
Senior writer
ccalloway@pntonline.com

Roosevelt County officials admit the hiccup in letting Roosevelt County’ latest escapee, who was being held on a murder charge, participate in the work detail program and have ceased all inmate worker programs until necessary changes have been implemented.

Roosevelt County Manager Charlene Webb said she nor the county jail’s administration knew Senovio Mendoza Jr., 32, was awaiting trial for murder in Eddy County prior to his Wednesday escape, when he was accused of assaulting a county employee and leading police in a high-speed chase from Portales to Sudan, Texas.

Mendoza was an Eddy County inmate being held at the Roosevelt County Detention Center, accused in the 2012 slaying of Artesia resident Tim Wallace and was awaiting a second trial in the case after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in February, according to the Carlsbad Current-Argus newspaper.
Webb said this information was not relayed to jail staff when Mendoza was transported to their facility in March.

“It was brought to our attention late in the day on (Wednesday) from the district attorney’s office out at Carlsbad that Mendoza was being held for a long list of charges including murder,” said Webb and Roosevelt County jail Administrator David Casanova in a joint statement.

Webb said because of these issues, the Eddy County Detention Center violated its contract with Roosevelt County and all inmates from Eddy County on Thursday were in the process of being returned until the agreement is modified.

Interim Eddy County Warden Mike Ingram was not immediately available for comment and Eddy County Manager Rick Rudometkin deferred all calls about the situation to Ingram.

“I would say (Eddy County officials) were partially responsible for not holding up their terms of the agreement,” Webb said. “Yes, we made a huge mistake but we were advised he was a murder witness, not a murder suspect. We should have never had him to begin with.”

The joint statement said the oversight has caused an immediate review of the inmate worker program, an immediate review of all housing agreements between Roosevelt County and other counties, as well as a review of any future housing agreements.

The RCDC currently houses inmates for several counties across New Mexico. In the agreement, it is required that each inmate, prior to acceptance into the detention center, has their arrest warrant and supporting affidavit, arrest report, judgment and sentence, release order, age, criminal complaint or other charging documentation as well as all medical records, the statement said.

“Currently, all inmate worker programs have ceased and will not be reinstated until the necessary changes have been implemented,” the statement said.

The Carlsbad newspaper also reported Mendoza was convicted on charges of breaking and entering, aggravated burglary and evidence tampering at his February trial.