2 New Mexico prisoners remain on the loose after van escape

Story highlights

  • Fugitives seen in Albuquerque on Thursday morning, police say
  • Escaped inmate Joseph Cruz, 32, has "Alias" tattooed on the back of his neck
  • Escapee Lionel Clah, 29, has a feather tattoo on his left cheek

(CNN)Two prisoners -- including one convicted of first-degree murder -- remain on the loose Friday after escaping from a prisoner transport van this week in southeastern New Mexico, authorities said.

Joseph Cruz, 32, and Lionel Clah, 29 -- both considered to be violent -- escaped from the van about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday near Artesia while the state Corrections Department attempted to transport them, the New Mexico State Police said.
They were spotted hours later in Albuquerque, more than a 250-mile drive to the northwest, police said. Surveillance video showed the fugitives in a building early Thursday in western Albuquerque, police said.
    Police said the Albuquerque images, which they posted to Facebook, showed Cruz in a long-sleeve, light brown shirt or jacket with blue jeans and glasses, and Clah wearing a red or maroon shirt with blue jeans. CNN affiliate KRQE-TV reported the images show the men in an Albuquerque hotel standing near an elevator.
    Police say a surveillance image shows Joseph Cruz, in the tan shirt, and Lionel Clah in Albuquerque.
    Albuquerque police said they searched the area for hours Thursday night and closed some streets. But the streets were reopened by 1 a.m. Friday, and police said the fugitives still were on the loose.
    The Corrections Department said the escapees have tattoos: Cruz has "Alias" on the back of his neck and a tribal symbol on his right ear. Clah has a feather on his left cheek.
    Details about Wednesday night's escape and how they traveled to Albuquerque weren't immediately available. When Cruz and Clah escaped, they were in white prisoner jumpsuits and bound by shackles, state police said.
    No shackles were apparent in Thursday's surveillance images from Albuquerque.
    Cruz had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and child abuse, according to the New Mexico Corrections Department.
    Clah had pleaded guilty to armed robbery with a deadly weapon, and no contest to assault with intent to commit a violent felony upon a peace officer.
    New Mexico Corrections Department Cabinet Secretary Gregg Marcantel said the prison transport van made several stops Wednesday. He indicated the most likely point of escape came during a stop for gas in Artesia.
    When they made their getaway, both men were on their way from the Penitentiary of New Mexico near Santa Fe to the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces.