RENO – Deputies searched mountain canyons and abandoned mine shafts around Virginia City on Tuesday after a prisoner escaped by locking a jailer in his cell a day earlier and fleeing into the rugged hills surrounding the historic Comstock mining district.
Jeremy James Morales, 38, was facing sentencing Monday on a sexual assault charge when he escaped from Storey County Jail in Virginia City by hiding in the shadows of his cell and getting past the deputy who came to check on him.
Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro said authorities were investigating the escape and had no other details.
Morales was described as weighing 220 pounds and wearing black-and-white striped jail clothes with “Storey County inmate” stenciled across the back.
“We’ve not found any of his jail clothing. As far as we know, he’s still in it,” Antinoro said. “There’s a lot of hard country out there, a lot of places to hide.”
Virginia City sits atop the Virginia Range about 30 miles southwest of Reno along an old highway with hairpin curves that stagecoaches once navigated beneath overlooks with names like Robber’s Roost.
Antinoro said it’s the first escape in 15 or 20 years from the jail built in 1992. Before that, prisoners were housed in the jail in the county courthouse dating to 1876, with an Old West-style statue of Lady Justice on top without the usual blindfold.
The sheriff said in a statement an internal investigation would determine if any breaches of protocol factored into the escape.
Antinoro said Morales doesn’t have a history of being a violent offender but nevertheless should be considered potentially dangerous.
“He’s already looking at long-term incarceration, and he just exacerbated that by his escape,” the sheriff said. “I don’t see him preying on people or anything like that. But people in desperate positions do desperate things.”