Virginia inmates arrested at iHOP after using toothbrush to escape jail

Posted at 1:03 PM, March 22, 2023 and last updated 5:02 PM, May 11, 2023

By: Jay Greene

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WTKR) — Two inmates used a toothbrush and metal object to dig a hole and escape through a cell wall at the Newport News City Jail Annex Monday night before they were caught Tuesday morning, according to authorities.

The Newport News Sheriff’s Office said Arley Vaughn Nemo and John Michael Garza escaped around 6 p.m. Jail staff noticed the men were missing when they didn’t appear for a head count at 7:15 p.m.

photos of John Michael Garza and Arley Vaughn Nemo inset over a hole in a jail wall

John Michael Garza (left) and Arley Vaughn Nemo (right) are accused of using a toothbrush to escape the Newport News Jail. (Newport News Sheriff’s Office/WTKR)

Garza and Nemo “began to exploit a construction design weakness utilizing primitive-made tools constructed from a toothbrush and metal object. Those tools facilitated their access to untied rebars between the walls,” the sheriff’s office said in the release. “Once gaining access to the rebar, they used it to further make their escape.”

After the two got out through the cell wall, they went over a containment wall.

Police in Hampton took the two into custody around 4 a.m. Tuesday at an IHOP, the sheriff’s office said.

“Based on this incident, a Newport News facility management and engineering team comprised of NNSO personnel and city facilities engineers are reviewing and formulating ways to mitigate the aforementioned facility weakness,” the sheriff’s office said. “Due to the fact that this weakness presents itself throughout the facility, and until all weaknesses are identified and secured, we will not discuss the situation further for security reasons.”

Garza, 37, of Hampton, has been in custody since Dec. 19, 2022, for contempt of court, probation violations and failure to appear, the sheriff’s office said. Nemo, 43, of Gloucester, has been in custody since Oct. 7, 2022, for credit card fraud, credit card larceny, forgery, possession of burglary tools, grand larceny, contempt of court and probation violation.

The sheriff’s office said charges related to the escape are pending.

“A criminal investigation and an internal investigation are ongoing as the Sheriff’s Office works to minimize the chances of such an event happening again,” the sheriff’s office said.

Police officers from Newport News were also involved in the search. Chief Steve Drew said during a Facebook live video that included “working with the Sheriff’s department, collaborating together, checking locations, possibilities, backtracking, talking to individuals.”

This story was originally published on March 21, 2023, by WTKR in Norfolk, an E.W. Scripps Company.