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Warden, Officer on Duty at July 4 Jailbreak Fired

By Leslie Linthicum
Staff Writer - The Albuquerque Journal
Friday, July 11, 2003

The McKinley County jail's warden and the lone corrections officer who was left in charge of 80 inmates during a Fourth of July jailbreak have been fired.

Management & Training Corporation, which manages the McKinley County Adult Detention Center on a contract, took the action after a series of security failures on the Independence Day holiday allowed four inmates, including three suspected in killings, to escape.

A police investigation found that inadequate staffing, failure to count inmates, insufficient coverage by security cameras and an unsecured fence combined to allow the escape.

"An inmate escape is our worst nightmare," said MTC Senior Vice President Ron Russell.

He said the company was putting together a panel of security experts to examine the Gallup jail and recommend improvements.

And he said the company has sent one of its regional vice presidents, a 34-year corrections veteran who formerly served as director of the Idaho Department of Corrections, to take over the Gallup jail.

Al Murphy is expected to begin work today and will hire a new warden to replace Cody Graham, who was relieved of his duties Thursday.

The guard who was on duty July 4 and failed to count a group of inmates after their hour in the recreation yard was also fired this week.

"This corporation will not allow lapses in administrative judgment to endanger the community," Russell said.

Meanwhile Thursday, the third of four men who escaped was recaptured.

Grants police arrested Alejandro Balderama, 23, at 6:45 a.m. Thursday at a Grants motel next to the police station.

Grants police Lt. Richard Rodriguez said Balderama bailed out of a motel window after police received a tip about his whereabouts. Tracking dogs located him near the motel.

Balderama, who is from Grants, had been jailed in Gallup on a charge of shooting at a dwelling.

Manuel Vasquez, who was being held on a charge of child abuse resulting in death, was arrested several hours after the escape when he sought treatment for a broken ankle and cuts at a Gallup hospital. His appearance at the hospital more than three hours after the escape alerted jail guards to the breakout.

Robert Kiro, suspected in the killing of a cop, was arrested several hours later at an Arizona motel.

The search continued for Eric Leyba, 18, who was being held on a murder charge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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