Fugitive caught in mobile home park

A man who escaped from Alamosa's county jail wasn't exactly a criminal mastermind. From the Alamosa Valley Courier.

Loren Bianca's flight from the law didn't last long, and he didn't get far.

Bianca, 23, who slipped out of the Alamosa County Jail on Monday, was captured by sheriff's deputies 20 hours later, hiding in the shower of a mobile home less than a mile from the jail.

Bianca's escape was apparently a crime of opportunity, said Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson, who gave a rundown of the incident.

Jackson said Bianca was arrested on Saturday around midnight on a charge of failure to appear in connection with a felony drug charge in June. Bianca was initially booked and placed in the jail's general population but had been pulled out and placed back in a holding cell by Monday.

"That's what we do when we have personality issues" between inmates, Jackson said.

What happened next was a convergence of circumstances.

While three deputies were serving lunch, Bianca asked the deputy in the booking area to go to the bathroom, as his holding cell did not have a toilet. On the way back from the bathroom, Bianca asked to make a phone call.

"Evidently there was some question as to whether he'd been given his allowed phone call," Jackson said.

The deputy turned to check if Bianca had already been granted a phone call, and at about the same time, the deputy answered a ringing phone in an adjacent office. While the deputy was on the phone, a kitchen cook whose shift was over asked the deputy to radio the jail's control room to open the sally port door. She went out through the door while the deputy's back was turned, and Bianca slipped out with her.

"She didn't even know he was behind her until she saw him running off," said Jackson. "The cameras right there are terrible. They're old cameras that don't cover the area very well. The guy in control didn't see it."

The cameras in the area were being replaced with higher-quality cameras on Tuesday.

The cook saw Bianca running, and at about the same moment the deputy noticed he was missing and gave chase out the sally port door.

"Bianca was running like heck," said Jackson. "He had a hundred-yard jump on the deputy. He disappeared into those cottonwoods up on Alamosa Avenue."

City police were notified immediately, and joined the sheriff's office in the search. Searchers were hampered by the number of abandoned houses in the area, which they could not legally enter without a warrant.

"If we knock on the door and nobody answers or they won't let us in, we can't get in," said Jackson. "We have to have probable cause to get a warrant, so unless somebody saw him going into one of those houses, it's very difficult to get a warrant."

The sheriff's office issued a reverse 9-1-1 call for the south side of town, which generated multiple leads, Jackson said.

"I followed up on a few anonymous tips that came in," said Undersheriff Shawn Woods. "They didn't pan out."

The break came Tuesday morning when an anonymous tipster told deputies they had seen Bianca and another person entering a mobile home in the Wagon Wheel Trailer Park, less than a mile south of the jail, on the other side of Highway 285. Deputies spoke with the owner of the mobile home, who told them that two people were in his house: one he knew, and Bianca, who gave a different name. The owner of the mobile home allowed deputies to search the residence.

"Two deputies went in, and two stayed outside to cover the exterior," said Sergeant John Vasquez, who led the search for Bianca. "The deputies that entered took the suspect into custody without incident."

Bianca was found hiding in the shower.

Jackson said there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone in the home with harboring a fugitive.

Jackson said he and his staff would take steps to ensure such an escape is unlikely to happen again.

"We're going to change the ways we do business back there," said Jackson. "Maybe we won't let anybody move around while we're serving lunch. We'll keep everybody locked down."

Jackson said Bianca was not a threat to public safety.

"This was a low-risk individual. He didn't have a background of violence."

Jackson said the inadequacy of the jail building can cause problems.

"There's nothing we can do about that holding cell," Jackson said. "We have to use it, and it doesn't have a toilet. Unless we go in there with a jackhammer."

Jackson said fixing the jail's plumbing issues would be a high priority if voters approve a one-cent sales tax increase on the ballot this fall that would raise money to replace the county courthouse and renovate the jail.

Residents at the Wagon Wheel Trailer Park had little to say about the fugitive who briefly hid in their midst.

"Nobody around here is going to open their mouths," said a blonde young man sitting on a porch in the mobile home park on Tuesday afternoon.

A woman leaving a mobile home identified by neighbors as the one where Bianca was arrested declined to comment, but shouted from a distance: "It's pretty cool they got him!"