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1 of 2 escaped New Mexico inmates is apprehended

Posted at 8:17 PM, Mar 11, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A convicted murderer who escaped from a New Mexico prisoner transport van and eluded authorities for nearly two days was arrested Friday as investigators continued to search for the other inmate who had fled with him, the U.S Marshals Service said.

Joseph Cruz, 32, was taken into custody in Albuquerque after managing to escape two nights earlier along a southern New Mexico highway, authorities said. He was taken into custody after a brief foot chase, deputy federal marshal Ben Segotta said.

Lionel Clah, a 29-year-old convicted for armed robbery and shooting at a police officer in northern New Mexico near Farmington, still hadn't been captured.

Corrections officials haven't said whether they know exactly where or when the men managed to escape, but they said it was sometime after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and along a roughly 200-mile route between correctional facilities in Roswell and Las Cruces that included a gas-station stop in Artesia.

Authorities didn't realize the men were missing until 1 a.m. Thursday, giving the two a several-hour head start in their escape from law enforcement, Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said.

Cruz is serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction.

A dayslong, statewide search for the inmates has involved multiple law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Marshals Office offered a $10,000 reward Friday for information leading to their capture just hours before announcing Cruz was apprehended.

Surveillance video placed Cruz and Clah at an Albuquerque hotel around 4:30 a.m. Thursday — about seven hours after corrections staff reported last seeing them and more than 200 miles north of where they were reported missing.

State officials raised the likelihood that the getaway happened at the fuel stop in Artesia and was planned. But they wouldn't say what suveillance video from that gas station had revealed.

"This must be investigated as something more organized," Marcantel said.

Clah and Cruz were shackled with leg irons and belly chains and wearing white prison jumpsuits before they fled, authorities said. In the surveillance video in Albuquerque, they were wearing jeans and shirts and even appeared to smile at the camera.

The escape comes after Corrections Department officials warned of dangerously low staffing levels at prison facilities across the state, and low wages made it difficult to keep qualified officers on staff.