A criminal described by one prosecutor as a "Hannibal Lecter" likely led the daring Southern California escape of three inmates from Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana last Friday,
Hossein Nayeri, 37, one of three men who escaped from the prison, was awaiting trial for a 2012 kidnapping and torture case that was set to begin Feb. 23, according to the Orange County Register. Born in Iran, officials said Nayeri had a history of evading law enforcement.
Local, state and federal authorities are involved in the manhunt to find Nayeri, along with fellow inmates Jonathan Tieu and Bac Duong.
"My first reaction was: Oh, my God, they let Hannibal Lecter out," Orange County deputy district attorney Heather Brown told the Register. "He is sophisticated, incredibly violent and cunning."
Hannibal Lecter is a well-known character in a series of novels by Thomas Harris made into movies. Lecter was introduced in the 1981 thriller novel "Red Dragon" as a forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer and became a public boogeyman after "Silence of the Lambs."
Brown said Nayeri is accused of beating a Newport Beach man who ran a licensed marijuana dispensary in Santa Ana with a gun and rubber hose, burning him with a butane torch, and ordering another suspect to cut off the man's penis.
Brown went on to criticize the Orange County Sheriff's Department for being too lax in handling Nayeri after the department was warned about his violent past.
Brown comments, though, were rebuked Tuesday in a statement
by her boss, Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas.
"Recently, statements were made by an (Orange County district attorney) prosecutor that were inappropriate, uninformed, and rash," said Rackauckas. "Those statements were not authorized by me or anyone from the OCDA. Those statements do not reflect the position of the OCDA."
Rackauckas said Orange County officials were working with multiple agencies in the search.
“Since the beginning of the search that started Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, of three extremely dangerous defendants that escaped Orange County Central Jail, we have been working with the Orange County Sheriff's Department and assisting in the manhunt to bring these three inmates to justice and protect the community."
The Los Angeles Times
said Tuesday that court documents revealed that the three escapes may have been out of their cells for more than 17 hours before evidence was discovered about their disappearance.
Inmates told jail officials that the escapees were seen at a 5 a.m. head county Friday but had not been seen the rest of the day, according to the Times. Officials said a head count at 8 p.m. Friday discovered they were missing.
Authorities believe the three escaped by cutting through a metal screen in their fourth-floor cell, navigated a plumbing tunnel and through vents until they made it to a roof. From there, they cut barbed wires and slid down the wall using bed sheets.
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