Escapee back to face life sentence again

The inmate who escaped Mesa County Jail by tying bedsheets together was back in the courtroom Friday, this time surrounded by four deputies.

Shane Johnson, 42, was staring down a life sentence in prison when he escaped the jail about two years ago and fled to Mexico.

Johnson, dressed in a red jumpsuit reserved for the jail’s most violent offenders who are housed in the Cedar Pod, showed off a missing front tooth to what appeared to be family members in the courtroom Friday.

Johnson escaped on Sept. 9, 2008. It was about a week before he was to be sentenced after a jury found him guilty on 22 charges, including auto theft and burglary. He faced a total sentence of more than 100 years in prison.

A new sentencing date for Johnson has been set for Oct. 7. Prosecutors expect to seek habitual-criminal penalties against Johnson, which would add years to his sentence.

Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he’s not certain yet whether he’ll file escape charges against Johnson because it may be a moot point.

Johnson was caught in Mexico and was serving time in a jail there on unrelated charges. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department worked with the FBI to retrieve Johnson, and he was back in local custody Wednesday night.

As a result of Johnson’s escape, sheriff’s officials added razor wire to a fence surrounding the jail and instated other security measures.

Johnson escaped by using a file that was mailed to him and cut through mesh on the ceiling of an exercise yard.

He shimmied down bedsheets and fled in a waiting car, which was being driven by his wife.

“I’m glad to see that he’ll be brought to justice,” Hautzinger said. “As a result of his actions, it’s far less likely that others will get away with that.”


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