Mystery remains about how Orange County jail inmates managed to escape

Orange County jail escape

The roof of the Orange County Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana.

(Orange County Sheriff’s Department)

The three inmates who broke out of the Orange County jail have been recaptured. But questions remain about how they got out in the first place.

Officials said Saturday they continue to investigate many of these missing pieces, including whether the escapees got more help.

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Q: How did the escape happen?


The inmates -- Hossein Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu and Bac Duong -- were held in a section of the Santa Ana jail known as Module F, a fourth-floor dormitory where 68 inmates sleep in bunk beds rather than individual cells. To escape, they had to cut through at least four layers of metal, steel and rebar in the dormitory, go through unsecured plumbing tunnels and make their way to the roof, where they used a makeshift rope of knotted bedsheets and cloth to rappel to freedom.

Q: What help did they have?

Authorities arrested an instructor who taught an English-as-a-second-language class at the jail, accusing her of helping with the plot by giving Nayeri access to a Google Maps view of the Men’s Central Jail. The instructor, Nooshafarin Ravaghi, is accused of exchanging personal letters with Nayeri, officials said.

But it’s unclear how the inmates got the tools officials suspect they’d need to escape.


On Saturday, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens stressed that the investigation was still open and that officials have not determined whether others helped in the plot.

Q: Is the sheriff looking to improve security?

A: Yes. She said that investigation is ongoing.

Detention experts and some officials have raised questions about security procedures at jails. It took about 16 hours to determine that the inmates had escaped, giving them a big head start.

Some also questioned why inmates accused of violent crimes were housed in dormitories rather than individual cells, which is the practice at other jails and prisons in the state.



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