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Attempted jail escape thwarted by county worker

A half-baked escape plot hatched by two inmates at the Merced County Main Jail was foiled this week after one of the men was spotted sticking his head through a ventilation shaft

And Merced County Sheriff’s investigators say one of the culprits already has one jailhouse escape on his rap sheet.

Inmates Donald Stephenson, 45, and Benjamin Crosby, 26, will be charged with escape and conspiracy to commit escape for allegedly removing a wall vent in the their cell — and replacing it with a fake vent made from paper towels and a board game box, according to Tom MacKenzie, sheriff’s spokesperson.

Investigators believe the inmates removed the wall vent about a week ago and climbed into a small corridor, measuring about 3 feet in width and 150 feet long, which ran behind the cells. The only problem for the inmates, however, was that there was no exit from the corridor, which is closed off on one side by a concrete wall and a steel door on the other side.

The pair were removed from their cell and questioned after a county worker, who was conducting routine maintenance, saw one of the men poke his head through the hole where the vent was located.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or