Authorities explain how two murder suspects escaped from Monterey County jail

Jonathan Salazar, left, and Santos Samuel Fonseca escaped from Monterey County Jail.
Jonathan Salazar, left, and Santos Samuel Fonseca escaped from Monterey County Jail.

A statewide manhunt is on for two accused Central Coast killers who broke out of a Monterey County jail early Sunday after cutting their way out through a restroom’s ceiling.

Monterey County sheriff’s officials at a Monday news conference revealed Santos Samuel Fonseca and Jonathan Salazar’s escape route: a 22-inch hole carved through Sheetrock in an area of their housing unit out of the view of security cameras. The blind spot was enough to hide their work and set their escape in motion.

“They identified a blind spot in a part of the housing unit, which is what they were able to exploit and make their escape,” Monterey County sheriff’s Capt. John Thornburg said at the noontime briefing streamed on Salinas television station KION-TV.

Investigators believe the men made their way through the carved-out hole to a slightly wider crawlspace used by maintenance workers before coming down on the other side of the restroom wall where they crawled outside through a hatch.

“It appears they went up the ceiling, up over the wall and down the other side,” Thornburg said.

The two, Salinas residents and alleged foot soldiers from opposing Salinas Valley gangs, broke out of the Monterey County Adult Detention Facility in Salinas sometime before head count early Sunday. Jail deputies reported the inmates missing about 8:15 a.m., Thornburg said.

Gone. Outside the jail were county-issued inmate clothes, shucked off by the fleeing pair, KSBW reported.

Fonseca, 21, is 5 feet, 7 inches and 150 pounds. Salazar, 20, is 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds. Both have black hair, brown eyes and facial hair. Salazar has the letter P tattooed on his face. Fonseca and Salazar are presumed extremely dangerous. The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to their capture.

A team of six investigators are “actively working” the case, Thornburg said. He brushed aside questions that sheriff’s staff aided in the jail break, but said the possibility that other inmates could have been involved is “a big part of the investigation.”

“We’re disappointed that it happened,” Thornburg said. “We’re charged with protecting the public. We’re disappointed that there are people charged with homicide who are no longer in our jail.”

Fonseca and Salazar are each facing trial in Monterey Superior Court for separate, unrelated slayings, KSBW reported.

Fonseca is accused of killing two men over three days in Salinas in June 2018, according to KSBW reports. The first was shot as he sat in his car talking to his wife; the second was gunned down in a Salinas park.

Fonseca’s girlfriend, Alekzander Romayor, was also arrested in the June 2018 park slaying. She has since pleaded no contest in the park slaying and is serving 15 years to life in state prison, according to KSBW.

Salazar was arrested in the October 2017 shooting death of a Salinas man and the wounding of the man’s wife while the couple drove in a Salinas neighborhood.

Sheriff’s officials are pleading with the public to help find the men.

Anyone with information can call Monterey County Sheriff’s Office at (831) 755-3722 or the anonymous We Tip line at (888) 833-4847.

Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.