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Salt Lake County Jail
Jonathon Steven Mize, 43

SOUTH SALT LAKE — Salt Lake County Jail officials said Monday they still don't know why an inmate who was due to be released in three months or less tried to escape from custody Sunday.

Jonathon Steven Mize, 43, who had recently been allowed to work in the jail's outdoor garden, jumped the garden's chain-link fence about 6:20 p.m. Sunday and ran.

Almost immediately, sheriff's deputies and Unified police officers set up surveillance on several areas they believed Mize was most likely to go. He was taken into custody about 8:25 p.m. at an auto wrecking company near 600 West and 3300 South.

About a dozen people who were also at the wrecking company were questioned by investigators, said jail spokeswoman Cammie Skogg. Three of those people were booked into jail for outstanding warrants and investigation of a new drug charge.

James Hymas, 54, and Dana Terry, 37, were each booked into jail on outstanding warrants. Wendy Vowles was arrested for investigation of drug possession when officers found a small bag of methamphetamine hidden in her bra, according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.

As of Monday, no one else had been arrested in connection with assisting in the escape. Skogg said in addition to trying to determine why Mize ran, detectives were also trying to determine whether others knew he would flee to the wrecking company or if it was simply the first place he thought of going after jumping the fence.

Mize was scheduled to be released in November and could have been released earlier because of good behavior, Skogg said. He remained in "administrative segregation" Monday and likely will be moved into maximum security, she said.

Investigators were going through several letters found in his cell and reviewing old phone calls by Mize to find out how long he may have been planning his escape attempt and who else might have known.

Mize has a long history of theft, burglary and drug-related charges dating back to 1994. He most recently pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to providing false personal information, a class A misdemeanor, while charges of retail theft, a third-degree felony, and assault, a class B misdemeanor, were dismissed.

He was booked into jail in January for warrants alleging retail theft, providing false information, identity fraud, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, Skogg said.

With no history of violent charges, Mize "seemed to be a fit" when he was screened for the garden program, Skogg said. He had been bused from Oxbow Jail to the garden outside the Salt Lake County Jail on Sunday and started work with about six or eight other inmates, all overseen by "at least one guard."

When Mize climbed over the single 6-foot chain-link fence and ran, the guard called for help immediately but couldn't leave the other inmates to give chase, Skogg said.

The garden was empty Monday as the sheriff's office evaluates the program and its security, but Skogg anticipates the popular garden program and its sales at Salt Lake City's downtown farmers market will continue.

"It's a fenced perimeter. Whether or not they're going to change that and make any modifications to the garden area is going to be up to the sheriff and our administrators," she said. "If we have to put that program on hold for a couple of days and not have anyone out there until we can start looking at those options, then we will."

The jail has had people walk away from work programs or have even been accidentally released, but this is its first escape, Skogg said.

"Obviously we're glad that it wasn't more of a breach to the actual facility," she said. "That's going to be of the highest concern of the sheriff right now, making sure that our program is what we want it to be and that our facility is secure."

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Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam, McKenzie Romero