Vegas Pipe-Bomb Killer Escapes Prison Using Battery Acid and Cardboard Dummy

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

When Southern Desert Correctional Center officers arrived at Porfirio Duarte-Herrera’s cell on Tuesday morning, they expected to see the 42-year-old prisoner for his scheduled morning count.

Instead, according to authorities and local media reports, they found a dummy, possibly made out of cardboard, in his place—and learned they were days behind a convicted bomber on the lam.

On Thursday morning, after five days on the run and a $30,000 reward, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department say they found Duarte-Herrera and took him into custody. Police say they nabbed him in downtown Las Vegas after receiving a tip about an individual matching his description.

Duarte-Herrera has been serving a life sentence after using a motion-activated pipe bomb hidden in a coffee cup to kill a casino hot dog stand worker on the Las Vegas strip in 2007.

Paul Lunkwitz, president of Fraternal Order of Police Nevada C.O., told Fox5 Vegas that Duarte-Herrera escaped from the medium-security prison using battery acid to break down the window frame of his cell. He then placed a dummy in his cell to hoodwink guards before fleeing through the Indian Springs prison’s perimeter fence. Lunkwitz said the prison tower that should have spotted Duarte-Herrera during his grand escape has been unmanned for a couple of years.

“Not only could that tower see the unit, but the tower could see the fence line where the damage was that allowed the inmate to get through,” Lunkwitz added.

The Nevada Department of Corrections said in a statement that Duarte-Herrera was officially reported missing at 7 a.m. Tuesday. A search for him, however, did not begin until an hour later, and a retake warrant was issued for his arrest. The unit that Duarte-Herrera escaped from houses about 200 prisoners and the inmate did have a cellmate, though it is not immediately clear who that was.

“This is unacceptable. My office has ordered NDOC to conduct and complete a thorough investigation into this event as quickly as possible,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a Tuesday statement. “This kind of security lapse cannot be permitted and those responsible will be held accountable.”

Duarte-Herrara was convicted in 2010 after a jury found him and his co-defendant, Omar Rueda-Denvers, guilty of murdering 24-year-old Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio. Authorities say that the pair detonated a pipe bomb on the roof of the Luxor Hotel parking garage in retaliation for Antonio being with Rueda-Denvers’ ex-girlfriend.

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