Escaped Merced inmate is captured in Gilroy

12/18/2013 6:32 PM

12/29/2013 9:42 PM

An inmate who escaped earlier this week from the John Latorraca Correctional Center was captured Wednesday in Gilroy.

Jason Grant Hunwardsen, 32, apparently climbed out through the ceiling of the holding cell at the jail complex on Sandy Mush Road in Merced around 1:30 a.m. Monday, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

A two-day manhunt for Hunwardsen, who was described as “dangerous” by Sheriff Mark Pazin, ended just after midnight Wednesday.

Led by Sgt. Chuck Hale, deputies from the Merced County Supervised Release Team and officers from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Agency and Gilroy Police Department arrested Hunwardsen without incident, Shelton said.

He surrendered at 12:10 a.m. at a home in the 8000 block of Monterey Street, Gilroy police Sgt. Pedro Espinoza said.

It remains unclear how Hunwardsen made his way from the Merced County Jail to Gilroy, some 70 miles away.

“Upon arrest, Hunwardsen was found in possession of a loaded .22-caliber pistol,” Shelton said in the statement.

He was booked at the jail without bail and faces a fresh escape charge, authorities said.

Hunwardsen’s criminal history in Merced County dates to at least 2002, according to Merced Superior Court records.

He was convicted Dec. 6 by a Merced County jury on felony counts of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant by a repeat offender and making criminal threats with a knife, according to court records.

Livingston police arrested Hunwardsen on Aug. 8 in connection with an incident of domestic violence, authorities said.

Scheduled to appear again today for sentencing, Hunwardsen faces more than 20 years in state prison, authorities said.

His criminal record includes convictions for vandalism and vehicle theft in 2002, resisting arrest in 2004 and assault with a deadly weapon in 2007, according to court records.

Earlier this week, Pazin said the escape illustrated the need for a new jail facility in Merced County. Last week, the state rejected a request from Merced County for $40 million that would have paved the way for a new jail. Pazin called the lost funding “heartbreaking.”

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