Inmate climbs fence, escapes from Merced County jail

Merced County Sheriff's Department deputies are seeking a fugitive who escaped from John Latorraca Correctional Center on Saturday and remains at large.

The inmate, 37-year-old Surgio Valencia Baltazar, escaped after scaling a fence at the jail. Investigators believe he used clothes and blankets to avoid being cut by the fence's razor wire as he climbed over, according to Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

MacKenzie said the escape happened after 75 men at the jail were let out of their dorms around 5 p.m. When the inmates reported back to deputies for a head count at 6:30 p.m., Baltazar was missing.

The investigation into Baltazar's disappearance was continuing on Sunday and MacKenzie said it's unknown whether he was helped by someone outside the jail.

Baltazar was being held on charges of carjacking, possession of a concealed weapon and possession of stolen property. He was also scheduled to be deported.

Sheriff's deputies are asking anyone with information about Baltazar's whereabouts to call the sheriff's department at (209) 385-7445.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.