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Second New Jersey escapee nabbed in Mexico City

  • Story Highlights
  • Otis Blunt was captured Wednesday in Mexico City, officials said
  • Jose Espinosa was caught not far from the New Jersey jail Tuesday
  • Last month, they escaped through a hole they dug in their cells' cinder block wall
  • A guard whom the inmates taunted in a note they left behind, committed suicide
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The second of two men who last month pulled off a daring escape from a county jail in New Jersey was taken into custody Wednesday, authorities told CNN.

Otis Blunt, 32, was arrested in Mexico City, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. He will be transported back to the United States as soon as possible, probably within 24 hours, authorities said. Mexico has no extradition proceedings.

On Tuesday, local and federal authorities captured Jose Espinosa, 20, who broke out of Union County Jail on December 15 along with Blunt.

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.

Authorities traced Blunt to Mexico City, where he was hiding in a $10-a-night hotel, said Commander Lenny DePaul of the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force. They spotted him when he looked out a window. Marshals and Mexican authorities then converged on the hotel room, DePaul said.

A written statement from marshals identified the hotel as the Hotel Zomara.

Blunt, who was arrested without incident, was in a holding cell Wednesday afternoon, DePaul said.

Marshals said Blunt was in the custody of the Mexican immigration agency and is awaiting its determination about his deportation. "Since the day of his escape, right through the holidays, apprehending this guy has been the highest-priority case," DePaul said in the statement.

In recent days, Blunt had spoken with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist, to help negotiate his surrender.

Sharpton traveled to Mexico City, where he said he was led to believe Blunt would give himself up Tuesday. But that surrender did not occur, and Sharpton left the country Wednesday morning.

Police believe it took two weeks for Espinosa and Blunt to chisel out two cinder blocks -- one between the cells and a second to the wall outside, using a valve wheel one of the men took from a pipe.

Union County prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow said it isn't clear why no one heard the digging, as a reenactment conducted by his office showed it would be loud. When the men made the jumps, they were wearing flip-flops and had wrapped their feet in sheets, the prosecutor said. The sheeting strips were found by authorities later.

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

Investigators said they also arrested a "female associate" of Espinosa. They identified her as 19-year-old Odalys Cortez of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and said in a news release that they plan to file criminal charges against her.

During their escape, Blunt and Espinosa left behind dummies in their jail beds, along with a note naming prison guard Rudolph Zurick. It thanked him "for the tools needed," and said, "You're A real Pal! Happy Holidays."

Zurick committed suicide last week at his home in Sayreville, New Jersey. His attorney, Michael Mitzner, said Zurick had not been charged in the jail break 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.

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.

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 weapons and robbery charges.

Both men were being housed in the multilevel jail's high-security area, officials said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Deborah Feyerick, Susan Chun and Jason Carroll contributed to this report.

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