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MERCED, CA – A Merced County Jail inmate attempted to escape from his cell Tuesday evening after he cut a hole in a concrete ceiling above his cell, Sheriff Vern Warnke said.

The inmate, 35-year-old David Lastra, was never outside the jail on West 22nd Street but he did climb through a hole and was found between the ceiling of his cell and the jail roof and surrendered to deputies.

“The public was never in any danger and the system we have of regular bed checks and surveillance worked,” Warnke said.

MCNTV News viewers may remember that Lastra was arrested back in October and charged with the murder of 27-year-old Richard Valentine. Sources stated that Mr. Valentine had been working as an informant for state parole agents on the day he was killed. On October 19th he was shot and killed as kids and parents were at the park.

The missing inmate was noticed at around 9 pm, Sheriff Warnke confirmed. Lastra is alleged to have used a “makeshift hacksaw” to cut a hole before stacking a plastic chair on the top bunk in his cell and climbed through the hole.

Investigators were working on discovering how Lastra was able to obtain the tool described as a metal pipe with threads and they confirmed that they will ask the DA’s Office to file an attempted escape charge.

Lastra is back in custody and his preliminary hearing for the homicide is scheduled for March 21.

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