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Escaped York inmates captured in Hartford Sunday night

By Joe Wojtas, Anna Isaacs and Lee Howard

Publication: TheDay.com

Published January 06. 2013 4:00AM   Updated January 07. 2013 5:55PM
Courtesy Department of Correction
Jessica Rivera, left, and Melissa Riley

Two inmates who escaped from the York Correctional Institution in East Lyme Saturday night were caught Sunday night in Hartford.

State police said that shortly after 8 p.m. they learned the pair were at a location in Hartford and took Melissa Riley, 30, of Willimantic, and Jessica Rivera, 34, of Waterbury, into custody without incident. They were brought to the Troop E state police barracks in Montville to be processed and were charged with escape from custody. They are are now being held on $500,000 bond each at the York Correctional Institution and will appear in New London Superior Court.

On Saturday, correctional staff noticed that Riley and Rivera were not accounted for as a group of inmates who live at Davis Hall were returning from the gymnasium about 8:15 p.m., according to a statement issued Sunday by the correction department.

The prison was placed in lockdown and an emergency count was ordered, which identified the two missing prisoners. State troopers, including K-9 teams, began searching the area.

Riley entered the prison on July 18, 2011, and is serving a three-year, three-month sentence for possession of narcotics.

Rivera last returned to prison on July 12, 2011, to serve four years for conspiracy. A correction department spokesman said she had escaped from a community-release program in 2006, and police said she previously has been convicted on robbery and burglary charges.

Andrius Banevicius, correction department spokesman, said Rivera had been caught and returned to custody less than two weeks after the 2006 escape.

Inmates initially are closely monitored after escaping from custody, but can earn credits for good behavior that eventually can lead to being placed in a minimum-security environment. Both women had been attending a substance-abuse treatment center, Banevicius said, and likely would have been released from jail within two years. A conviction on an escape charge would likely add to the women's sentence.

State police said the two women were housed on the minimum-security side of the facility, which is not totally secured by a fence.

All area police departments were notified of the escape. Emergency notification to local and state officials and residents was made late Saturday night via the State's CT Alert system.

East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica said Sunday that the prison warden's office contacted him about an hour and a half after correctional staff noticed the women were missing, saying they were in the process of confirming there had been an escape.

Formica then notified Sgt. Mike Macek of East Lyme police, and the escape was verified about a half-hour later. Macek, Administrative Sgt. Joseph San Juan and Richard Morris, East Lyme's public safety officer and emergency management director, had reported to the prison by this time.

The first selectman also called state Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme and Salem, who is a member of the state house's Public Safety and Security Committee.

Formica said there hasn't been an escape from the prison in more than a dozen years.

The original system in place to alert residents to a prison escape used a siren, followed by a loudspeaker announcement. Formica said he chose not to use this system and instead notified local newspapers and TV stations, put an alert on the town's Facebook page, and used a reverse 911 call to inform every resident in East Lyme.

Formica also called officials from the surrounding towns of Old Lyme, Salem, Montville and Waterford, who informed their police departments.

Formica said because one of the escapees has a record of escaping from prison once before, he thinks "that they would be given a little more attention than the average inmate."

He added that he has "complete faith" in the warden at the correctional facility and in the department of correction.

"The department of corrections does an exemplary job managing facilities throughout the sate under very difficult circumstances," he said. "These people were in a low- to medium-security situation, and you know, if that's the opinion of those people that handle these folks every day, it's not up to me to judge that. I would imagine, given this situation, they would be in the process of rethinking and relooking at some procedures there."

j.wojtas@theday.com

a.isaacs@theday.com

l.howard@theday.com

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