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February 9, 2023

Man facing charges in Morgan Hill, among others, escapes from Watsonville jail

Captured eight hours later

An inmate at the Rountree Medium Facility on the outskirts of Watsonville, whose list of charges include a DUI in Morgan Hill, escaped May 7, leading to an intensive search that ended with his capture later the same day.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ashley Keehn said Christopher Dicochea, 24, of Salinas escaped around 3:45pm from the correctional center on Rountree Lane, near the Buena Vista landfill.

Sheriff’s deputies temporarily shut down Rountree Lane and fanned out in the area minutes after his escape. They shut down Rountree Lane at Harkins Slough Road and stationed law officials at key spots along San Andreas Road, Buena Vista Drive and at the south section of Harkin Slough Road near Pajaro Valley High.

Christopher Dicochea

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Special Enforcement Team eventually found Dicochea about two miles from the facility around eight hours after he escaped, near the new Starbucks drive-thru on Lee Road between West Beach Street and Riverside Drive.

In February 2020, Dicochea, who was then wanted for a robbery in Salinas and a DUI in Morgan Hill, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and crashing into several parked vehicles after a brief chase in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Police spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke said police responded to a report about a reckless and suspected DUI driver in the area of Seabright Avenue and Murray Street.

A few minutes later a patrol unit caught up to a black Ford Mustang driven by Dicochea nearby at Broadway and San Lorenzo Boulevard. The officer attempted a traffic stop but when Dicochea pulled over, and the officer exited his patrol car, Dicochea sped away, Blaschke said. 

The officer pursued Dicochea eastbound on Broadway, and the chase ended when Dicochea crashed into several parked cars and a street sign at Riverside and Soquel avenues, Blaschke said. 

Dicochea then ran toward San Lorenzo Park, where two SCPD rangers arrested him.

He was charged with DUI causing injury, possession of stolen property, evading an officer and carrying a loaded and stolen 9mm handgun, in a public place. He was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail, jail records showed.

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.

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