Escapee has violent past at jail

Senovio Mendoza Jr.

Senovio Mendoza Jr.

By Christina Calloway

Senior writer

The Eddy County inmate who escaped from Roosevelt County officials while on a work detail Wednesday was also involved in a fight in the Roosevelt jail two years ago.

Roosevelt County Manager Charlene Webb has said officials did not know Senovio Mendoza Jr. was being held on murder charges; but she also cannot explain how, with that violent history in the Portales jail, he was eligible for work detail last week.

Although documents related to the fight were filed April 11, 2012, in Roosevelt County Magistrate Court, Webb said they were never served to Mendoza, 32, until after his arrest Wednesday in connection with the escape.

Mendoza was assigned to work at the Roosevelt County fairgrounds last week, where he is alleged to have assaulted a county employee with a pickax, bound his hands with duct tape, stole the employee’s personal vehicle and led police on a high-speed chase from Portales to Texas. Mendoza was captured near Sudan.

Mendoza is awaiting a second trial in the slaying of Artesia resident Tim Wallace after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in February.

Wallace was killed Jan. 2, 2012. Three months later — but two months before Mendoza was first charged with murder — Mendoza was accused of beating another Portales inmate over a television dispute, records show.

A video showed Mendoza striking the other inmate “with a flurry of punches,” according to court documents.

Records show Roosevelt County Detention Center Administrator David Casanova responded to the physical altercation that took place between Mendoza and the other inmate in 2012.

Casanova did not return a call seeking comment.

Seven charges were filed Monday against Mendoza related to Wednesday’s escape, including kidnapping, robbery, aggravated battery and escape from jail.

Webb said last week Mendoza should have never been transferred to Roosevelt County because, per contract with Eddy County, it is only to receive sentenced inmates.

Mendoza is still awaiting trial.

“Yes, we made a huge mistake but we were advised he was a murder witness, not a murder suspect,” she said last week.

She said when Eddy County transferred Mendoza, officials did not provide correct documentation.

Eddy County Interim Warden Mike Ingram on Monday said he did in fact provide the correct information to Roosevelt County.

Before our inmates are released from our facility to another facility, they’re medically cleared by our medical staff and then every individual we release from our facility to the existing facility, they’ve got all their booking information with him,” Ingram said.