2 inmates escape Vernal jail

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:21 PM


VERNAL— Two inmates escaped from an eastern Utah jail after taking apart an industrial-sized exhaust vent for the laundry room, officials said Wednesday.

The men made their way through a large opening in a concrete wall at the Uintah County Jail and may have stolen an SUV parked at a nearby residence, Uintah County Undersheriff John Laursen said.

The owner left his keys in the vehicle, which had a full tank of gas, and awoke Wednesday to find the 1996 green GMC Yukon missing, he said.

Local and state police and U.S. marshals are searching throughout Utah, Colorado and Nevada for the inmates or the SUV with Utah license plate 612MPM.

By midday Wednesday there had been no sighting of the inmates, Laursen said.

The escapees — Jason Max Braham and Dallas Ephraim Derrick, both 21 — were both serving time for convictions on theft and burglary charges when they turned up missing for a 2 a.m. Wednesday head count at the 384-bed Vernal jail.

Laursen said the inmates had to work at dissembling the laundry vent. First, they got into a locked maintenance chaseway behind the laundry room.

"We’re still trying to figure how they got into that room," he said.

The inmates took apart a security screen added to a regular laundry lint screen and made their way through a 3-by-2-foot hole in the concrete wall, the undersheriff said.

It’s the first escape from a county jail in Utah since a string of escapes in 2005, Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke said.

State officials changed a policy that year to allow only minor state offenders to serve time in county jails. Braham and Derrick are state offenders.

"We have more inmates than beds and contract the overflow population to 21 jails around the state," Gehrke said.

Laursen had one piece of advice for car owners, even in rural areas: "Don’t leave your keys in the car."

Law enforcers ask anyone with information on the men to call 911.

Braham was described as 5-foot-9, 185 pounds with green eyes and a shaved head.

Derrick is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds with blue eyes and a shaved head. He has tattoos on his left arm of a skull, clown and a spider web.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.