'Mastermind' of California jail escape has long past

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- The alleged mastermind of a brazen California jail break was a small-town paint store manager fresh out of the Marines when his life changed with a car accident that killed his friend and sent him into a spiral culminating with his arrest on charges he tortured and mutilated a man, then left him to die in the desert.

See Full Article

The prosecutor in the kidnapping and torture case against Hossein Nayeri was so alarmed by his escape from the Orange County jail last week that she called defence attorneys in a panic at 2 a.m. In an interview with a reporter, she described him as a Hannibal Lechter, the sadistic killer in "The Silence of the Lambs."

Nayeri, 37, and two other inmates, 43-year-old Bac Duong and 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu, sawed through a metal grate over a plumbing tunnel and sliced through more metal and rebar to reach an unguarded section of roof. From there, they rappelled down four stories using a rope made of bed linens to reach freedom -- the first jail break at the facility in nearly three decades, authorities said.

Nayeri was born in Iran and as a child emigrated to the U.S. with his family. He attended high school in Fresno and then joined the Marines.

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said investigators believe he was the leader of the jail break partly because of his military background. On Thursday, authorities announced they had arrested a woman of Iranian descent who taught English at the jail and is suspected of providing help for the escape. Nayeri attended her classes.

His attorney, Salvatore Ciulla, did not return a request for comment.

Nayeri had no felony record in 2005 when he was charged in a drunken-driving accident that killed his high school friend, Ehsan Tousi, and left Nayeri hospitalized with burns and struggling with depression, according to friends and family.

While free on bail, Nayeri fled but eventually was arrested in Washington and extradited to California in 2009. At his sentencing, friends and family wrote letters to the judge on his behalf, saying that the accident had turned him into a shell of his former self.

He hung a photo of Tousi on the wall of his hospital room and cried daily, one friend wrote. A sibling wrote that he stopped calling and spent hours at his friend's gravesite.

"It was a horrible feeling to watch my little brother drift away, but there was nothing I could do," Sheri Nayeri wrote the judge.

Nayeri told the judge he remembered the smell of burning flesh and was screaming his friend's name before he blacked out.

"To this day I wish I wouldn't have gained consciousness to see the look on their faces," Nayeri wrote.

He was sentenced to less than a year in county jail and four years of probation, in part because of his lack of felony history.

"I'm not sticking up for the guy by any means," said Roger Bonakdar, an attorney for Tousi's family. "But whatever the hell was going on with him, it really got out of control pretty quick."

Nayeri moved from Madera County to Orange County and violated probation several times, court records show.

A probation officer wrote in his court file that he struggled with substance abuse, depression and feelings of guilt. A psychologist indicated that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with episodes of mania and depression and was taking medication for it, according to court files.

In 2011, he was charged with domestic battery, false imprisonment and making criminal threats but the case was dismissed after he pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanour. That same year, a woman -- one of the friends who wrote the judge on his behalf in 2005 -- filed a request for a protective order against him, according to court records.

He was still on probation in 2012 when, prosecutors say, he fled during a traffic stop in Orange County and led police on a high-speed chase. Nayeri managed to get away on foot after ditching the car, which had surveillance devices, video footage and GPS trackers inside.

About a week later, prosecutors say, Nayeri and three others kidnapped a medical marijuana distributor, bound him with zip ties and drove him to desert where they believed he had buried a large sum of cash.

There, the man was tortured with a blow torch and his penis severed, according to court files.

Police soon matched the ditched car to Nayeri and believe the surveillance gear was being used to monitor the victim, said Robert K. Weinberg, a defence attorney who is representing one of Nayeri's co-defendants in that case.

As authorities closed in, Nayeri fled to Iran. He was arrested in 2013 in Prague as he tried to travel to Spain to meet his family.

He was to go on trial Feb. 23 on charges that include kidnapping, torture and burglary.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Police charge Red Lake, Ont. man in alleged sex assault from 44 years ago

    Canada News CTV News
    RED LAKE, Ont. -- A 69-year-old man is facing charges in alleged sex assaults believed to have taken place more than 40 years ago. Provincial police say the incidents took place in 1973 and 1974 in Red Lake, Ont. Source
  • Review of devastating New Brunswick ice storm makes 51 recommendations

    Canada News CTV News
    FREDERICTON -- A review of a devastating ice storm in New Brunswick that left two people dead and more than 130,000 people without power says the provincial government should increase funding for emergency services and better educate the public on emergency preparedness. Source
  • New Brunswick man charged with production of child pornography in U.S.

    Canada News CTV News
    A 49-year-old New Brunswick man who allegedly travelled to Ohio to meet a teenage girl is facing a charge of production of child pornography in the United States. Joseph Haggerty of St. Stephen, N.B. Source
  • Turkish leader urges Turks in Germany to vote against Angela Merkel

    World News CBC News
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said German Chancellor Angela Merkel was an enemy of Turkey and called on Turks in Germany to vote against her and other major parties in next month's elections. The comments are some of Erdogan's harshest yet against Merkel and her Christian Democrats, illustrating the widening divide between the NATO allies and major trade partners. Source
  • Barcelona's victims: A snapshot of the world

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- The dead and injured in Barcelona were a snapshot of the world -- men, women and children from nearly three dozen nations -- testifying to the huge global appeal of the sun-kissed city. Source
  • Canadian eyewitnesses describe terror of Barcelona attack

    Canada News CTV News
    The deadly vehicle attack in Barcelona sent a wave of panic though the busy Las Ramblas promenade where scores of tourists had gathered for a day of leisure in the warm Spanish sun. A white van drove onto the sidewalk and began swerving into the crowd on Thursday afternoon. Source
  • Canada on list of countries with citizens killed or injured in Barcelona

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — Spanish authorities say Canada is among 34 countries with citizens killed or injured in the terrorist attack in Barcelona. Global Affairs says Canadians have been affected by the attacks, but did not provide further details, citing privacy reasons. Source
  • Far-right, anti-racist groups plan duelling protests Sunday in Quebec City

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- An anti-fascist group is organizing a counter-protest against a demonstration in Quebec City on Sunday that is being planned by a far-right group. Montreal Antifasciste says in a statement it's calling on anti-fascist and anti-racist groups to head to the provincial capital to oppose La Meute's demonstration. Source
  • Crown wants 9-year sentence for man convicted of attempting to leave to join ISIS

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The Crown is seeking a nine-year prison sentence for a man convicted of attempting to leave Canada to join the Islamic State. The defence has countered with a recommendation of six-and-a-half years for Ismael Habib. Source
  • Finnish police shoot man after several people were stabbed in Turku

    World News Toronto Sun
    COPENHAGEN — A man stabbed several people in Finland's western city of Turku before police shot him in a leg and detained him Friday, police said, adding that authorities were looking for more potential suspects. Finnish broadcaster YLE says several people were seen lying on the ground in Puutori square in central Turku. Source