A Merced inmate escapes on Valentine’s Day to be with his wife and girlfriend.
It’s an escape that can only be described as "Shawshank Redemption"--esque. But the inmate only found freedom for a short time; police say a love triangle helped stop him in his tracks.
No sirens sounded on Valentine’s Day as a desperate inmate made a daring escape. The dark of the early morning concealed it, but hours later a head count at the John Latoracca Correctional Facility revealed it—32-year-old Zachary Johnson was missing. “There's a weak portion of the shower area that leads to the roof top where Johnson found the soft underbelly and was able to get through,” says Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin. Officers say Johnson broke through the shower ceiling; he scaled down the wall and then used a blanket to jump the razor wire. Blood left on the fence marked the trail. They say Johnson changed clothes and ran down the road jumping in a taxi. Police say his girlfriend—Jeanette Segovia—scheduled the ride. “He was able to catch a ride to Los Banos where the Valentine’s Day escapee spent the day with his girlfriend,” says Pazin.
It's here Johnson's wife—Dawn Hathaway—comes in. Police say she wired him money and he went to pick it up; he was going to meet her in San Jose, but police caught up to him. “The taxi took off down Highway 33 to Highway 152. The vehicle stopped and the driver was dismissed,” says Pazin.
In desperation, police say Johnson took off blazing down the road for 40 miles; it was spike strips that finally stopped him. But the chase didn't end there; police say he took off on foot. They say Johnson hid in a chicken coop and that's where he was arrested.
His girlfriend Jeanette Segovia and wife Dawn Hathaway were also arrested on charges of aiding and abetting. “He was a solo escapee. He took it upon himself to spend time with his lady friends on Valentine’s Day,” says Pazin.
Police say they also found meth in Johnson's possession. He was originally arrested in January in Los Banos on charges of felony evading, narcotics violations and resisting arrest—many of the very same charges he's facing this time around.
The last successful escape from this same facility was in 2009. There was another attempt in 2010 but the inmate didn't make it out; he was caught hiding in the rafters.
Christina Lusby Reporting.