Escapee murder suspect

By Christina Calloway
Senior writer

A Roosevelt County inmate being held on first-degree murder charges remained in the custody of Texas officials Thursday after being accused of assaulting a county employee to escape a work detail and leading police on a high-speed chase from Portales to Sudan, Texas, according to officials.

Senovio Mendoza Jr., 32, was an Eddy County inmate being housed at the Roosevelt County Detention Center when he made his escape Wednesday, officials said.

Mendoza is accused in the 2012 slaying of Artesia resident Tim Wallace. He 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. The Carlsbad newspaper also reported Mendoza was convicted on charges of breaking and entering, aggravated burglary and evidence tampering during his February trial.

Senovio Mendoza Jr.

Senovio Mendoza Jr.

Mendoza was a trusty, or on work release detail, assisting a county maintenance employee at the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds when he hit the employee with a pickaxe, bound his hands and feet with duct tape, stole his keys and wallet and fled the scene in the employee’s personal vehicle, according to a Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office press release.

The maintenance employee was freed by a second inmate who left to use the restroom then returned to hear the employee’s call for help, according to the press release. The employee was taken to Roosevelt General Hospital for his head injuries, where he has since been released.

Roosevelt County Manager Charlene Webb said she had already been informed of Mendoza’s escape when she spotted the vehicle he was reported to be driving on N.M. 202 traveling toward Texas.

Webb began following the vehicle and relaying information to responding law enforcement units, the press release said.

Texas law enforcement was notified and a deputy with the Bailey County Sheriff’s Office intercepted the vehicle near Muleshoe, Texas, according to the press release.

Muleshoe’s Chief of Police Roy Rice said the deputy pulled over Mendoza a little after 4 p.m. When the deputy got out of the vehicle, Rice said Mendoza took off.

Rice said the chase lasted about 15 minutes and involved four service vehicles. He added the chase reached speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour.

During the chase, Rice said Mendoza tried to ram one of the police units head-on.

“We got out of the construction zone and one of the officers told him to pull over and he did,” Rice said. “As soon as he stopped, he opened the door and put his hands up.”

Rice said charges from Texas authorities will include evading arrest with a vehicle, assault on a public servant and reckless driving.

Webb said the investigation in Roosevelt County is still open and no charges have been filed yet against Mendoza, but sheriff’s officials have been working with the Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.