VERNAL — Prosecutors have filed charges against two men who escaped Wednesday from the Uintah County Jail, even as police across the West continue to look for the fugitives.
Dallas Ephraim Derrick, 31, and Jason Max Braham, 21, both are charged in 8th District Court with escape from official custody, a second-degree felony, and damaging a jail, a third-degree felony. A no-bail warrant has been issued for the men's arrest.
Derrick and Braham are state inmates serving time in the jail under a contract between the Utah Department of Corrections and Uintah County. They were working with another state inmate in the jail's laundry room about 1 a.m. when they pried open the door of a maintenance closet, said Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell.
"When they obtained access to that (closet), they climbed up (and) peeled back the screen, kicked out the ventilation and then escaped out the hole," Merrell said.
The third inmate did not attempt to escape, the sheriff said.
The jailbreak was discovered about 2 a.m. during a routine inmate check. That's when the jail was locked down, an inmate count was conducted and an external search began, Merrell said.
Jail surveillance video shows that, after squeezing through the 13-by-23-inch opening, Derrick and Braham walked across the jail's back parking lot, hopped a fence and then crossed through a field. About one mile from the jail, they apparently stole a green 1996 GMC Yukon from the driveway of a home, Merrell said.
Police K-9s followed the inmates' scent to the home, according to the homeowner, who asked not to be identified due to fear of retaliation from the escapees. The homeowner said she spotted the police dogs about 6:30 a.m., roughly the same time she called 911 to report that her husband's SUV was missing.
The vehicle was unlocked and the keys were inside, Merrell said. It also had a full tank of gas.
"All Western states have been notified," he said, describing the vast distance the men may be able to travel.
Derrick has a shaved head and blue eyes. He is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds, with tattoos of a spider web, a clown and a skull on his left arm.
Braham has a shaved head and green eyes. He is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 185 pounds.
Derrick and Braham each have numerous convictions for burglary and theft, according to state court records. Derrick also has convictions in 2005 and 2006 for escape from official custody.
Steve Gehrke, spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections, said Derrick's escape convictions stem from an incident in which he walked away from the work-release program at the Cache County Jail and another time when he absconded from parole and then fled from officers before later turning himself in.
"In both cases he was unaccounted for, but he didn't escape a secure facility," Gehrke said.
Derrick was scheduled to be paroled in April 2017. Braham was scheduled to go before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole in November 2016.
Investigators believe the men may still be driving the Yukon, which has a Ski Utah license plate with the number 612 MPM. They are asking anyone who sees the pair or knows where they are to call 911.
"We assume that anyone that goes through the efforts and processes to concoct an escape or carry out an escape is in a desperate circumstance," Gehrke said. "So we would consider them dangerous to the extent that we wouldn't want the community to approach them or attempt to apprehend them."