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happy holidays!

December 18, 2007

(CNN) — Two inmates at New Jersey’s Union County Jail made a movie-style escape Saturday and remained at large Monday, according to Union County Prosecutor Ted Romanko.

Twenty-year-old Jose Espinosa and 32-year-old Otis Blunt, who are considered armed and dangerous, were discovered missing from their cells at about 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Romanko said.

The men left behind dummies in their beds, cinder block dust and a note wishing authorities “Happy Holidays.”

Espinosa, who recently pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter, was to be sentenced on January 25 and faced a minimum of 17 years in prison. Blunt was being held in lieu of $75,000 bond on weapon and robbery charges.

Police said Espinosa and Blunt were in adjacent cells and used a long metal wire to scrape away mortar around the cinder block between their cells and the outer wall in Espinosa’s cell.

Once the cement block between the cells was removed, they smashed the block hid the pieces in a footlocker. According to police, Blunt, who is 5 feet 10 inches and weighs 210 pounds, squeezed into Espinosa’s cell through an approximately 16- to 18-inch hole.

The two inmates wiggled through another 18-inch hole in the outer wall. From a roof landing, the two men “took a running jump or they were standing and they jumped approximately 15 feet out and about 30 feet down,” Romanko. Then they jumped a razor-wire fence onto a New Jersey transit railroad bed to freedom. 

At a news conference Monday, Romanko read the note that was found in Espinosa’s cell said “Thank you officer ——– for the tools needed, you’re a real pal, Happy Holidays,” the note read, with a smiley face drawn next to it.

Espinosa and Blunt used dummies made of sheets and pillows in their beds. They also hung photographs of bikini-clad women to hide the holes in the walls, a move reminiscent of a scene in the Hollywood hit “The Shawshank Redemption.”

There is an $8,000 reward for the men’s capture. Romanko said a statewide hunt is under way, with several agencies involved. 

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