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N.J. prisoner recaptured after escape that left taunting note

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: "Female associate" of escapee arrested, investigators say
  • Authorities nab Jose Espinosa, who broke out of jail last month with another inmate
  • The pair left behind dummies in their beds, along with a note naming a prison guard
  • Other inmate at large but has spoken with the Rev. Al Sharpton to arrange surrender
  • Next Article in Crime »
From Deborah Feyerick
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- One of two men who escaped from a county jail in New Jersey last month was back in custody, authorities said.

Federal and local authorities on Tuesday captured Jose Espinosa, 20, who broke out of the Union County Jail on December 15 with fellow inmate Otis Blunt, 32, Union County prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow said.

Acting on a tip, authorities found Espinosa about 9 p.m. Tuesday in an apartment six blocks from the jail, said James Plousis, U.S. marshal for New Jersey. Espinosa was alone in the residence, lying on a couch.

Investigators said they also arrested a "female associate" of Espinosa's. They identified her as Odalys Cortez, 19, of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and said they plan to file criminal charges against her.

Officials said Espinosa and Blunt escaped by digging a hole through the cinder-block wall of their adjoining cells and hid the hole by using posters of bikini-clad women. The two then jumped onto a roof and over a 25-foot-high razor wire fence onto a railroad bed. Authorities said Espinosa might have injured his foot making those jumps.

The two left behind dummies in their beds, along with a note thanking prison guard Rudolph Zurick "for the tools needed" and saying, "You're a real pal! Happy holidays."

Zurick committed suicide this week at his home in Sayreville, New Jersey. His attorney, Michael Mitzner, said Zurick had not been charged in the jailbreak and was cooperating with investigators.

"It's possible that his name being associated with the escape was more than he could take despite his lack of involvement," Mitzner said. Video Watch a fellow guard describe how the job takes a toll »

Espinosa recently pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and was to be sentenced January 25, authorities said. He faced a minimum of 17 years in prison. Blunt was in prison in lieu of $75,000 bail for weapon and robbery charges. Both men were being housed in the multilevel jail's high-security area, officials have said.

As Espinosa, wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt, khaki pants and slippers, was led into Union County police headquarters Tuesday night, a reporter asked him about the guard's death. "It wasn't our fault," he said.

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In recent days, Blunt has spoken with the Rev. Al Sharpton to help negotiate his surrender. Romankow, the prosecutor, said he immediately called Blunt's attorney to alert him that Espinosa had been captured and was being questioned by authorities.

A press conference regarding Espinosa's arrest is scheduled for Wednesday morning. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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