An IHOP sign. Reuters


  • Two Newport News Jail Annex inmates were discovered missing Monday night
  • They exploited a "construction design weakness" using tools like a toothbrush to escape
  • Police arrested the escaped prisoners at an IHOP branch in the early hours of Tuesday

Two inmates in Newport News, Virginia, who used tools like a toothbrush to escape from jail earlier this week were found at an IHOP just hours after their breakout, according to police.

John Garza, 37, and Arley Nemo, 43, were discovered missing from their Newport News Jail Annex cell during a routine head count that was carried out at around 7:15 p.m. Monday, the local sheriff's office said in a Tuesday press release.

The two men had exploited a "construction design weakness" in the facility using "primitive-made tools constructed from a toothbrush and metal object," a preliminary investigation by the Newport News Sheriff's Office (NNSO) found.

"Those tools facilitated their access to untied rebars between the walls. Once gaining access to the rebar, they used it to further make their escape," the force explained.

Garza and Nemo then proceeded to scale the prison's wall and left the area.

Hampton Police Department Officers were able to arrest the duo at an IHOP branch in the neighboring city of Hampton in the early hours of Tuesday thanks to tips from citizens, and the two were taken back into custody, according to the NNSO.

"I'm thankful for the citizens who observed Garza and Nemo at the IHOP and notified law enforcement," Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan said.

A criminal investigation and an internal investigation are currently ongoing as the NNSO works to minimize the chances of such an event happening again, according to the department.

"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," police said.

The NNSO will not discuss the situation further "until all weaknesses are identified and secured" as these were present all throughout the Newport News Jail Annex, according to the force.

Garzo, who is from Hampton, had been in custody on several charges, including contempt of court, probation violations and failure to appear.

Meanwhile, Nemo, a resident of Gloucester, was held on contempt of court, credit card fraud, credit card larceny, forgery, grand larceny, possession of burglary tools and probation violation.

Charges related to their escape are pending, the NNSO said.

A prison fence
Representation. A prison fence. phtorxp/Pixabay