Dismissals served in NJ escaped prisoners

2 p.m. news conference with Union County prosecutor on investigation
January 28, 2008 10:36:37 AM PST
Union County officials are investigating all avenues in the embarrassing jail break of two inmates, including whether any of the jail employees in charge of the high-security unit at the Elizabeth facility assisted in the escape. Officials stressed that no conclusions have been reached, and the current avenues of investigation will be discussed at a 2 p.m. news conference with Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow.

"Any conclusion made would be getting ahead of the investigation," said one official.

One jail guard, Officer Rudolph Zurick, was named in a note left by two escapees sarcastically thanking him for his help. Zurick committed suicide soon after.

Five other jail employees -- three sergeants and two corrections officers -- were notified on Friday that they are facing dismissal.

They were immediately suspended with pay on administrative charges of neglect of duty and failure to supervise.

The notification prompted immediate criticism from their lawyers and union officials.

A hearing on Feb. 4 will determine if the employees -- identified as Officers David D'Amore and Patrick Kennedy and Sgts. Christopher Sloan, Joseph Simpson and Richard Griswoldwill -- will continue to receive salaries.

Additionally, the Union County jail warden was reassigned and his second in command was fired.

Officials have been investigating why the two escaped inmates were gone so long before any jail officials noticed their absenses.

Jose Espinosa got a 20 hour head start, and Otis Blunt was away for 13 hours before he was discovered missing.

Griswold came on duty a couple of hours before the escape was detected. Griswold was not on duty during the hours that the men escaped.

Since the escape, Union County has added more razor wire around the perimeter of the facility, added security cameras and posted guards outside of the jail.