SAN ANTONIO – A slaying suspect who escaped this weekend from the Bexar County Jail is believed to be in Mexico based on video footage from a camera at a Laredo border crossing, a sheriff's investigator said.
Federal and local authorities have been searching for David Sauceda since discovering that he walked out of the jail early Sunday morning.
The 27-year-old, alleged to be a member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, bluffed his way out of prison by pretending to be his cellmate. County officials say the ruse apparently worked because of a miscommunication among jail workers.
Sheriff's Capt. Jim Rickhoff said Sauceda walked two blocks to the home of an acquaintance, who drove Sauceda to a San Antonio home where he called a woman described as his girlfriend. A friend of the girlfriend's then drove Sauceda and his girlfriend, along with her two children, to Nuevo Laredo. A camera recorded the friend's car crossing the Mexican border, Rickhoff said.
"The escape was well-planned, with several people on the outside assisting," Rickhoff said. "Before the escape was discovered, he was in Mexico."
Sauceda was loose for more than six hours before authorities realized he had escaped.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said Monday it appeared human error and a breakdown of communication led to the mistaken release of Sauceda.
Sauceda was freed after reciting the personal information of his cellmate, Michael Garcia, according to the sheriff's department. An unidentified person had posted bond for Garcia, who is jailed on a felony auto theft charge.
Wolff said that when officers went to retrieve Garcia, Sauceda stepped forward and recited Garcia's identification number.
But Sauceda's fingerprints, taken by a jail employee to verify his identity, were smudged and couldn't be matched to those on file for Garcia, said Brian Menges, director of jail administration. So Sauceda was taken for an additional fingerprint check using the jail's Live Scan technology.
Menges said that ultimately the appropriate fingerprints were never compared to verify that it was Garcia.
"It's a whole series of errors just like any other unfortunate disaster," Menges said.
Wolff said he understood the problem to be that the Live Scan check of Sauceda's fingerprints pulled up Sauceda's own profile, including a photo, and that when Sauceda matched it, he was released.
"Somehow in there the communication between the two did not go well," Wolff said. "It sounds like it's human error. We don't know for sure."
Menges said two employees have been reassigned from booking duties.
A message left for Sauceda's attorney of record was not immediately returned Monday.
Wolff said it appears Garcia was complicit in letting Sauceda use his information, but that a full investigation will be done.
"He's being questioned," Wolff said. "They're going to try to get to bottom of it."
Sauceda is charged with murder, aggravated robbery and burglary with intent to commit assault.
He and his brother, Jesse Sauceda, were charged with killing a San Antonio man last year, and with robbing a 59-year-old woman after binding her with duct tape.
Bexar County investigators said Monday they were working with Mexican authorities, as well as the U.S. Marshal's Service and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, to locate Sauceda.
Rickhoff said authorities would take "appropriate action" against anyone who helped Sauceda escape.