2 inmates in prison van escape case plead not guilty

Joseph Cruz and Lionel Clah
Joseph Cruz and Lionel Clah

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Two New Mexico inmates have been arraigned on charges stemming from their escape from the back of a prison van earlier this year.

Lionel Clah and Joseph Cruz appeared before a state district judge in Carlsbad on Monday morning. Both men are charged in the March escape.

They pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Authorities say said Cruz and Clah broke out of the prison van near Artesia after picking the locks on their handcuffs and then hitched a ride 200 miles north to Albuquerque.

Officers didn’t realize the two had escaped until hours later when the van arrived at a Las Cruces prison. A massive manhunt led to Cruz and Clah’s separate arrests days later.

Clah already is serving time for armed robbery. Cruz was sentenced to life in prison on a first-degree murder conviction.


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