Two women were arrested Wednesday for allegedly helping a pair of escaped inmates in New Mexico last week — including the woman who called 911 on one of the fugitives, authorities said.
The first woman, Michelle Abeyta, 40, let escapee Lionel Clah stay in her Albuquerque apartment even after she learned that he escaped from a prison van last Wednesday, state police charged. She then called 911 on Clah Saturday, leading to an end to the manhunt.
Clah, 29, and another inmate, Joseph Cruz, 32, escaped from a prison van near Artesia by apparently picking the locks on their handcuffs Wednesday night, police said. From there they made their way to Albuquerque, around 250 miles away, until their capture Friday and Saturday, police said.
Also Wednesday, a Texas woman was arrested on charges she let both men stay in her Albuquerque hotel room for several hours after the escape, gave them both cash and gave Clah clothes, and let Cruz use her cell phone to call others who helped them, police said.
Patricia Petrushkin, 51, described as having a “close connection” to Cruz, was arrested in Houston, police said. Petrushkin and Abeyta are both charged with harboring and aiding a fugitive.
State police did not say why Abeyta turned Clah in. Police said she met Cruz and Clah at an unsuspecting neighbor’s apartment Thursday night, and that she let Clah stay with her after that neighbor kicked them out, and after she learned he had escaped.
Abeyta told NBC affiliate KOB Sunday that Clah "seemed like a nice guy" and helped her put a bed together.
She told the station that when Clah told her he had escaped from prison she "started to freak out" and left for two nights, and called 911 when she returned Saturday and he was still there.
"I told him I would turn him in if he didn't. And I did," she said
State police said in a statement that because Abeyta was arrested in the case, she is ineligible for the $10,000 reward offered by the U.S. Marshals Service.
A listing for Abeyta did not contain a phone number, and a number listed to apparent relatives could not accept calls Wednesday. She was being booked at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque Wednesday evening, police said.
The inmates said they escaped the prison van by picking their handcuff locks while the vehicle was moving, and then opening a locked back door, State Police Chief Pete Kassetas told reporters Monday.
They escaped at around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, but weren't noticed missing until the van arrived in Las Cruces and a count was done at around 12:30 a.m., he said.
Police said they are investigating whether the inmates had help after their escape. New Mexico's harboring or aiding a felon statute has exemptions for some family members, Kassetas said.