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Home  >  Topics  >  Corrections

January 09, 2008
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1 of 2 N.J. 'Shawshank' escapees caught

By The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — One of two inmates wanted in a daring jailbreak last month that echoed the plot of ''The Shawshank Redemption'' was captured in an apartment just six blocks from the jail, authorities said.

A team of federal and local law enforcement officers arrested Jose Espinosa without incident Tuesday night in Elizabeth, said James T. Plousis, U.S. marshal for New Jersey. Otis Blunt, with whom Plousis escaped Dec. 15, remained at large.

Espinosa, 20, was alone when arrested and had a leg injury suffered when he and Blunt made their escape, Plousis said. The two are believed to have jumped onto a roof, from which they leaped over a 25-foot-high fence topped with razor wire.

Authorities got a tip Tuesday to Espinosa's whereabouts, Plousis said, adding that he could not provide details. Espinosa was being questioned Tuesday night by Union County police, Plousis said.

Authorities have no reason to believe that Blunt had been with Espinosa, Plousis said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Monday that he had been contacted by people in touch with Blunt and was trying to arrange his surrender.

The Union County prosecutor's office said the two inmates used photos of bikini-clad women to hide holes they dug through the cinder-block walls of their adjoining cells in a high-security unit.

In ''The Shawshank Redemption,'' the main character uses posters of women to conceal the escape tunnel he is digging.

The inmates left a cheeky note thanking one of their guards, Rudolph Zurick, for helping them, although authorities have said there was no evidence that Zurick helped them.

The guard committed suicide Jan. 2, the day he was to speak to investigators about the escape. He was buried Monday.

Blunt, 32, was awaiting trial for robbery and weapons offenses at the time of the escape. Espinosa was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to manslaughter in a 2005 drive-by shooting.

Changes were made at the jail in the aftermath of the escape, including the reassignment of its director, the removal of his top deputy and the ordering of a full-scale security review.

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