PORTALES, N.M. (KRQE) – An accused murderer attacked a Roosevelt County guard with a pick ax and got away while on work detail last Wednesday.
Officials now admit he never should have been allowed on work detail and they didn’t know who they were dealing with.
Tuesday, for the first time since accused murderer Senovio Mendoza Junior, 32, escaped Roosevelt County custody, the county is speaking out and taking the blame.
“I am taking ownership for the mistake we made,” said Roosevelt County Manager Charlene Webb.
For almost a week, questions have lingered about Mendoza’s violent escape. Questions like, why was he allowed to be on work release and how he got his hands on a deadly weapon?
Sheriff’s officials say Mendoza was doing grounds keeping work at the county fair grounds when he struck a guard over the head with a pick ax then bound the guard with duct tape and took off in his car.
Mendoza was finally caught near Sudan, Texas which is more than 50 miles from where he escaped.
County Manager Charlene Webb says Mendoza had recently been transported to Roosevelt County from the Eddy County Detention Center because of an overcrowding issue.
Webb says the county had an agreement with the facility to house their inmates, but only if they had already been sentenced or were low risk.
Mendoza is an accused murderer who still faces trial.
“Roosevelt County or the manager or the detention administrator were not aware that Mr. Mendoza was facing first degree murder charges,” said Webb.
In 2012, police say Mendoza and another man raided an Artesia home in masks claiming to be police then shot a man in the head.
Eddy County jail officials say it sends an inmate’s background paperwork to Roosevelt County when it transfers inmates.
Officials would not say if Mendoza’s murder charge was included in that paperwork.
The Roosevelt County jail says it did a background check on Mendoza, but his records didn’t show a murder charge meaning he was eligible for work release.
“Unfortunately all I can say at this point is we accepted him and we should have done a better job of evaluating his background on our own,” said Webb.
The county says Mendoza and another inmate were cleaning an animal pen at the fairgrounds when he escaped.
A sheriff’s investigator told KRQE News 13 he was given the pick ax as part of the job.
Roosevelt County has halted all inmate transfers while it reviews security policies.