Two inmates at New Jersey's Union County Jail made a movie-style escape Saturday and remained at large, according to Union County Prosecutor Ted Romankow.
Twenty-year-old Jose Espinosa and 32-year-old Otis Blunt, who are considered armed and dangerous, were discovered missing from their cells at about 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Romankow said.
The men left behind dummies in their beds, cinder block dust and a note wishing authorities "Happy Holidays."
Espinosa, who recently pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter, was to be sentenced on January 25 and faced a minimum of 17 years in prison. Blunt was being held in lieu of $75,000 bond on weapon and robbery charges.
Both men were being housed in the high security area of the multilevel jail, Romankow said.
Police said Espinosa and Blunt were in adjacent cells and used a long metal wire to scrape away mortar around the cinder block between their cells and the outer wall in Espinosa's cell.
Once the cement block between the cells was removed, they smashed the block hid the pieces in a footlocker. According to police, Blunt, who is 5 feet 10 inches and weighs 210 pounds, squeezed into Espinosa's cell through an approximately 16- to 18-inch hole.
The two inmates wiggled through another 18-inch hole in the outer wall. From a roof landing, the two men "took a running jump or they were standing and they jumped approximately 15 feet out and about 30 feet down," Romankow said.
Then, they jumped a razor-wire fence onto a New Jersey transit railroad bed to freedom, police said. Authorities found two sets of footprints in the snow heading in opposite directions.
At a news conference Monday, Romankow read the note that was found in Espinosa's cell, saying it represented the "arrogance of these two men."
"Thank you officer -------- for the tools needed, you're a real pal, Happy Holidays," the note read, with a smiley face drawn next to it.
Authorities are investigating the note's claims about the guard, the Associated Press reported. The guard has not turned in a report and disciplinary action has not been taken, Romankow said, according to AP.
To delay discovery of the escape, Espinosa and Blunt used dummies made of sheets and pillows in their beds. They also hung photographs of bikini-clad women to hide the holes in the walls, a move reminiscent of a scene in the Hollywood hit "The Shawshank Redemption."
Romankow played down the comparison.
"I think this is a very serious situation you saw," he said. "I really prefer not to compare with any movie, although I can understand why you might because it does look certainly very similar to some of them. Except in 'The Shawshank Redemption' they had a better poster on the wall."
According to police, Blunt tried to escape in September using similar methods. There is an $8,000 reward for the men's capture.
Romankow said a statewide hunt is under way, with several agencies involved.