Jailbreak: Escaped inmate sentenced, accused accomplice’s family speaks out

Updated: Oct. 9, 2020 at 10:29 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The man who escaped a Pima County jail in April just learned his fate.

A judge sentenced Jose Fernandez today to a year-and-a-half for the escape. He also got an additional 6 for his initial charges which include attempt to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The man who jail officials say helped him escape was supposed to be sentenced the same day as well; however, Thomas Stillman’s hearing date is now pushed to Nov. 10.

KOLD Investigator Wendi Redman spoke with Stillman’s family who maintains his innocence in the escape, even calling him a scapegoat in order to shift blame away from the corrections officers.

Inmate Jose Fernandez “admits” he escaped from the Pima County Jail Mission Facility.

This Sheriff’s Department Incident Report says he was in the basketball area outside when he shimmied up a pole, busted through the chain link fence, then jumped from the roof.

His escape is only part of the concern. Possibly the bigger concern is no one knew for more than 10 hours.

Captain Sean Stewart says that’s largely due to another inmate fooling officers. He says that inmate sat on Fernandez’s bunk bed during a headcount to hide he was gone. The inmate charged for this --- Thomas Stillman.

“There was an inmate when they were doing a headcount who actually sat in the bunk and laid in the bunk and pretended to be Mr. Fernandez when the officer was doing his count,” said Captain Stewart.

The report says the headcount was not done correctly.

Stillman’s mother believes by saying her son was helping Fernandez escape, it takes some of the heat off of officers not doing their jobs. She claims her son was out of his area and when he saw a corrections officer coming, he didn’t want to get into trouble so he sat on a random bed which just so happened to be Fernandez’s bed.

“My son’s bed was clear over in the corner and he was out of his area," said Pat McNeely. "He said when he saw the C.O. coming through the doors, he panicked and he didn’t know whether to go back and he sat down on the bed and then when he realized the C.O. was not coming around and doing his job, he got up again and went to his bed.”

Stillman did accept a plea deal in the case. His mother alleges he only did it to avoid a lengthier jail sentence on his initial charges.

The corrections officers now have revised protocols to make sure a jail break like this never happens again.

Captain Stewart says no one with the jail is facing any disciplinary action.

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.