A woman that tipped off US Marshals to the whereabouts of an inmate that escaped from a Connecticut prison said she hasn’t been paid the reward that was promised.
Jennifer Fernandez is a manager at a Chevron gas station in Canton, Georgia.
On January 17, she helped police capture a fugitive that had evaded arrest for almost two weeks.
“They told me it was a reward for $2,500 and that they would contact me, and I gave them my information but I didn’t hear anything from them,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez was working at the gas station when Jerry Mercado walked in asking to use the phone.
She didn’t realize at first who she was dealing with.
“When he got up close to my face I saw that his eyebrows and hair was bleached like bleach, bleached blonde,” Fernandez said.
The 25-year-old inmate had been on the run after escaping the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution in Enfield, by stowing away under a state-owned van.
He ran almost four miles to a Burger King down the road, called his mother who picked him up, thinking he had been released.
He then managed to travel over 1,000 miles to Georgia.
Five prison employees were put on temporary leave related to the escape.
“I remember he came into the store and like I said he was acting all weird and asking me if the phone was tapped and if somebody could hear him on the other line,” Fernandez said.
Someone was listening on the other end when he called his mother in Hartford because the police showed up at the Georgia gas station looking for him.
“They saw the video, took a picture, they left and when I walked out behind them I looked and I saw him standing outside, so I called 911 back again and I told them ‘hey you guys just missed him. He’s right here, he’s standing outside in the corner,’” said Fernandez.
Fernandez called the police back after they missed him the first time, and the elusive Mercado was put in cuffs.
“The police told me, ‘hey there’s a reward for $2,500, we need your information,’ they wrote it down and said we’re going to fax it to whoever was giving out the reward at that time,” Fernandez said.
US Marshals joined the search for the inmate three days after his escape posting a $1,500 reward, then it was raised to $2,500 on January 16.
Fernandez was told to wait 30 to 60 days before calling local police about collecting the reward.
“I called them and they told me to call back the next day. I called back the next day and they told me this department is still closed call back tomorrow again, so I called back the next day after that,” Fernandez said.
She said she’s still been getting the runaround.
“They’re just sending me to different places and nobody tells me anything,” said Fernandez.
Her phone calls were eventually directed to the US Marshal’s headquarters.
“Then I called US Marshals and they said they told me that they had no idea what I was talking about. So, I was just like ok,” Fernandez said.
Now she’s frustrated and wants an answer.
“They lied to me, that’s what they did. So, I was like ok well I didn’t really think anything of it just they lied to me,” Fernandez said.
She jokes that maybe she shouldn’t have tipped off the police.
“I was like oh, I shouldn’t have called now. I feel bad for him now he’s in jail,” Fernandez said.
So, what will she do with the reward if it ever comes?
“Go on vacation, I need a vacation,” said Fernandez.
A spokesman for the District of Connecticut Violent Fugitive Task Force said payments are confidential and will not be discussed with the media.
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