Hilkey hopes escapee still within grasp
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said he has relished the prospect of taking vacation in the Baja region of Mexico, which ideally would include a face-to-face sit-down with the man who embarrassed Hilkey and his staff.
“I won’t deny taking a little bit of satisfaction in looking him in the eye and telling him he didn’t get away with it,” Hilkey said in a recent interview.
The mere mention of Mesa County’s most notorious jail escapee under Hilkey’s tenure, 42-year-old Shane Edward Johnson, still raises stress levels.
When FBI colleagues passed on information several weeks ago indicating a new judge in Mexico had been appointed to review Johnson’s case, Hilkey had more reason for concern.
“We don’t understand what that means,” Hilkey said of the judge’s review.
Hilkey said the FBI, with which Mesa County officials continue to work toward returning Johnson to the United States, has explained that a previous judge handling Johnson’s case declined to pursue charges related to a series of residential burglaries in the Baja region in January 2009, when Johnson and his wife, Marilynne, were arrested there. It’s unclear why charges weren’t pressed, the sheriff said.
Johnson was ordered to a pay a fine of $1,200, and he can’t be released because of a hold placed on him by Mexican immigration authorities, according to Hilkey.
“If there’s just a small fine keeping him in prison, we sure hope that immigration hold sticks,” he said, adding he continues to press federal authorities on Mesa County’s interest in Johnson. Adding to Hilkey’s frustration is a lack of understanding of Mexico’s judicial process, such as pinpointing a date for Johnson’s next appearance in Mexican court.
“There’s no real trigger point,” Hilkey said. “Everything’s kind of open-ended.”
Denver FBI spokesman Dave Joly said a team of agents and lawyers in Mexico are tasked with monitoring all U.S. fugitives in custody.
“We’re counting on Mexican immigration bringing him to the U.S. border,” Joly said. “But information from (Mexican) authorities is not steady. Sometimes we have an abundance of information, and it just stops.”
Joly said they have worked cases when U.S. fugitives disappear from custody, with word reaching the FBI well after the fact.
“Some we’re still looking for today,” Joly said. “We understand (Hilkey’s) frustrations, and we’re doing everything we can to support his needs.”