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2 months after being released by mistake, inmate back in Okla. jail

A former jail employee reported the mistake after overhearing the man bragging about his release, 25 years early

Reimundo Cuevas.jpg

Reimundo Cuevas turned himself in about 1:30 p.m. Sunday after a warrant for his arrest was issued Friday.

Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office

By Nolan Clay
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY — An admitted drug dealer is back in the Oklahoma County jail, two months after he was released by mistake.

Reimundo Cuevas, 37, of Oklahoma City, turned himself in about 1:30 p.m. Sunday, said Jessica Brown, the jail’s communications director.

He was sentenced April 12 to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to six counts of trafficking in methamphetamine, one count of conspiracy and one count of illegal use of a phone.

He was freed nine days later while awaiting transport to prison.

“We are trying to find out why that happened,” Brown said Saturday.

“There are numerous sets of eyes on a detainee’s file before and after they are released,” Brown said. “So it’s a mystery at this point. But we will find out. It appears at this point to be human error.”

On Friday, a manhunt for Cuevas began after a tipster reported overhearing him bragging about being out.

The incident is the latest embarrassment for a trust that took over operation of the overcrowded 13-story facility on July 1.

Since then, the trust has repeatedly come under fire because of inmate deaths, escapes and other highly publicized incidents. That criticism intensified after an inmate took a detention officer hostage on March 27.

Special Judge Lisa Hammond said she was notified Friday that he had been released.

“They said they’re really sorry. That’s all they could say is: ‘We’re really sorry. We don’t know how this happened. We’re really sorry,’” she told The Oklahoman on Saturday.

“So the only way that it came to their attention was that ... he was somewhere where someone who used to work in the jail was ... and he was bragging about the fact that he was supposed to be serving 25 years,” the judge said.

That former employee later called the jail, the judge said.

“It’s just amazing,” the judge said. “Who knows how many there are of those? We wouldn’t have known but for somebody seeing him.”

Hammond said she now questions if she needs to start checking to make sure that everyone she’s sentenced to prison is actually in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

Another special judge Friday signed a warrant for Cuevas’ arrest.

“On April 21st ... inmate CUEVAS was mistakenly approved for release from the Oklahoma County Detention Center by Detention Staff,” a trust investigator reported in an affidavit requesting the arrest warrant.

“He was pulled and taken to releasing, where he was released from custody by Detention Center Staff. Inmate REIMUNDO CUEVAS knowingly and intentionally left ... making him a FUGITIVE FROM JUSTICE.”

“We have to figure out exactly how that happened to make sure that, to the best of our ability, it does not happen again,” Brown said.

Such mistakes are rare but do occur.

In 2018, convicted murderer Patrick Marteaz Walker was released from the Payne County jail after pretending to be his cellmate.

The escape quickly attracted national attention because it was so brazen. Walker simply walked out of custody after two girlfriends arranged bail for his cellmate.

The scheme worked because he and his cellmate looked alike, investigators said. The cellmate later claimed he kept quiet about the identity switch when guards came for his release because Walker threatened to harm his family.

Five days later, Walker and another girlfriend were apprehended at an extended stay motel in St. Louis.

(c)2021 The Oklahoman