Prisoners in real-life 'Shawshank Redemption' breakout are arrested stopping for pancakes
Two US prisoners staged a real-life Shawshank prison break by using an adapted toothbrush to dig their way to freedom.
But their escape was short-lived, after the pair decided to stop for pancakes and were identified by fellow diners.
Prison officials discovered John Garza, 37, and Arley Nemo, 43, were missing from Newport News Jail Annex in Virginia during a routine headcount around 7pm on Monday.
The prisoners had dug a hole through a prison wall using “primitive-made tools” constructed from a toothbrush and metal object, according to the local sheriff's office.
The tools enabled them to exploit a construction design weakness in the prison to access untied rebars between the walls and use those to further their escape.
Garza and Nemo then scaled a high prison wall.
The escape had echoes of The Shawshank Redemption, the Stephen King novella adapted into a critically-acclaimed film, in which prisoner Andy Dufresne digs a tunnel out of his cell with a small rock hammer.
But in the case of Garza and Nemo, the pair's escape plan was foiled within hours by their apparent fondness for pancakes. The two men were spotted by members of the public at an Ihop (International House of Pancakes), in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
“I’m thankful for the citizens who observed Garza and Nemo at the Ihop and notified law enforcement,” said the Newport News sheriff, Gabe Morgan. “It reinforces what we always say: ‘See something, say something’.”
The sheriff's office said that the structural weakness the prisoners exploited presents itself throughout the facility, and engineers are working to mitigate the risks. "Until all weaknesses are identified and secured, we will not discuss the situation further for security reasons," the office said in a statement.
Garza was in custody on charges including contempt of court, probation violations and failure to appear. Nemo was being held on charges including credit card fraud, credit card larceny, forgery, possession of burglary tools, grand larceny, contempt of court and probation violation, the sheriff’s office said.
Further charges related to the escape are pending, the sheriff's office said.