Affidavit: GJ inmate tied sheets to escape

A Mesa County Jail inmate used two hacksaw blades to cut away a hole in a portion of steel mesh roof and shimmied down the side of the building on several bedsheets tied together to escape from the jail last fall, according to an arrest affidavit unsealed late Wednesday.

Shane Johnson, 41, a convicted felon who was facing a possible life sentence in prison, took about two minutes to climb down the side of the jail and jump into a getaway vehicle waiting at the rear of the jail, the affidavit said. Prosecutors allege Shane Johnson’s wife, Marilynne Johnson, 47, was behind the wheel.

Recorded phone conversations between Shane Johnson and another inmate, Rodney Price, indicate Price also intended to escape the jail with Johnson early in the morning of Sept. 9.

The details of Shane Johnson’s escape, the only breach by an inmate from the Mesa County Jail since it was built in 1992, are contained in an affidavit for Marilynne Johnson. She is in the Mesa County Jail on $100,000 bond on suspicion she aided her husband’s escape.

She was arrested Jan. 10 in Baja California, Mexico, along with Shane Johnson, who remains in the custody of Mexican authorities on suspicion of burglarizing homes there.

Detention staff believe Shane Johnson received the hacksaw blades in an envelope sent through the mail into the jail. The envelope, which contained a hidden compartment, was found in Shane Johnson’s cell after his escape. Also found there was a fake body placed in his bed to make it appear he was sleeping, the affidavit said.

The Sheriff’s Department previously had said Shane Johnson escaped from the covered exercise yard after staying behind when other inmates left the yard at about 10:30 p.m.

Johnson, however, is seen on video climbing down the building around midnight, but it wasn’t until more than three hours later that deputies were alerted to a jailbreak.

According to the affidavit, Marilynne Johnson visited her husband in the jail hours before his escape. Investigators also uncovered phone calls between people on the outside, including an area bondsman, talking about and relaying plans for the escape and how best to send hacksaws into the jail.

A return address for the envelope containing the hacksaws was labeled “Legal Work” from Lisa and Paul and lists a Colorado Springs address. It is not clear from the affidavit whether investigators know who sent the package.

Price is recorded on the jail’s telephone lines indicating he is helping Shane Johnson escape, the affidavit said. Price, who formally was charged with helping Shane Johnson escape, is in prison on unrelated charges.

“... Rodney talks about having four tires sitting there, at two different spots for Shane, so he can switch and go,” the affidavit said.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said staff made improvements to the jail and changed the covering in the exercise yard since Johnson’s escape. Hilkey declined to say what that covering is or to specify other changes. The facility at 215 Rice St. has undergone a complete audit, and razor wire has been added to the top of the fence surrounding the building, he said.

Hilkey said the jail does not have a metal detector for scanning mail, but that may change.

Deputies walk suspicious packages next door to the Mesa County Justice Center to be scanned by metal detectors there. Several people handled the package that Johnson received, including a Postal Service carrier, jail staff and investigators, Hilkey said.

The jail cannot afford to have designated staff constantly listen to inmates’ phone calls, something that is legal for jail staff to do, Hilkey said.

“Our staff is taking this very personally, making sure that this never happens again,” he said.

Hilkey said he does not know when Mexican authorities will release Shane Johnson, but he has communicated to authorities there that Johnson is looking at a probable lifetime prison sentence here.


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