Murder suspects who escaped Lerdo created makeshift dummies they placed in their bunks: reports

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The two murder suspects who escaped Lerdo Jail in April got a head start by filling bags with liquid and beanies with newspaper to create makeshift dummies they covered with blankets, giving the appearance they were asleep in their bunks.

It wasn’t until an emergency count was conducted almost an hour after an initial head count that detentions deputies discovered the men were gone and found a hole cut in the roof of their cell, according to court documents released Tuesday.

The documents detail the actions jail staff took as they searched for David Palms and Tyrone Johnson, each facing murder and other charges in the shooting death of 3-year-old Major Sutton.

Palms, 22, was recaptured hours later at a Dollar General store on Lerdo Highway near Highway 43. Johnson, 24, remains at large.

The first hint detentions deputies had that anything was wrong came about 1:40 a.m. April 28, when the documents say a detentions sergeant radioed, “Master Control is there a maintenance unit on the roof?”

Minutes later, a senior detentions deputy thought he heard a sound on the roof above his desk.

“The sound was weak and sounded like an animal walking around on the roof,” the detentions deputy said in the reports. “It is not uncommon for wild animals such as raccoons or cats to access secured areas within the Lerdo compound.”

Jail staff went to the back of the facility to climb a staircase to the roof while the inmates were counted. Detentions deputies found no one on the roof.

At 1:48 a.m. the main gate deputy radioed, “Movement on the south side of the facility, possible animals,” the reports say. Deputies drove around the perimeter looking for anything out of the ordinary.

Just after 2 a.m., the head count for the Justice Facility finished and everyone appeared to be in their bunk, according to the documents. Pre-Trial’s head count was completed at 2:19 a.m. with everyone accounted for.

It wasn’t until 2:36 a.m. that an escape was confirmed and an emergency head count ordered with deputies waking up every inmate.

When they got to the cell housing Palms and Johnson, deputies turned on the lights and saw what appeared to be an inmate in the top bunk and in the bottom bunk covered with their blankets, according to the documents. There was no response when deputies ordered them to uncover themselves.

Detentions deputies opened the cell. They pulled back the blankets on each bunk and found bags of liquid in the shape of a body underneath.

“There were also newspapers and toilet paper rolled up in the shape of a head, inside of a beanie,” the documents say. “Shoes were filled with socks and set up to make it look like someone was laying on the bunk. All of this was done to give the impression that the inmates were laying on these bunks.”

Searching the cell, the deputies found an 18-by-18-inch hole in the ceiling where the metal had been cut and pulled down, according to the reports.

The charges the men face stem from a shooting that occurred Nov. 10, 2017, when two men kicked down the door of the home of Major’s family. They opened fire, killing the boy, and wounding his pregnant mother and then-5-year-old brother.

The shooting is believed to be gang-related. Major’s mother was living with a documented West Side Crips gang member, and both Johnson and Palms are members of the rival East Side Crips.

A third defendant, Myeisha Dale, was accused of driving Johnson and Palms from the scene. Charges against her were dismissed following her death in March.

Dale’s cause of death has not been released.

This article will be added to throughout the day.

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