Escaped inmate came to stay

May 08, 2001 11:00 pm
Jonie Gardenhire discovered that an escaped Pelican Bay Prison inmate was living in her motorhome, eating her food and looking for something to drink while he stayed undiscovered on her property. (The Daily Triplicate /Stephen Merrill Corley).
Jonie Gardenhire discovered that an escaped Pelican Bay Prison inmate was living in her motorhome, eating her food and looking for something to drink while he stayed undiscovered on her property. (The Daily Triplicate /Stephen Merrill Corley).

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

A prison escapee made himself at home with a beer and a can of tuna while holing up in a motorhome in Fort Dick last week.

He was pretty brave, said Jonie Gardenhire, the owner of the motorhome. He walked right into my garage and took a can of beer out of the refrigerator.

Ruben James Puga, 22, walked away from the minimum security area of Pelican Bay State Prison on April 30. It was three days later when Gardenhire, who lives on Lower Lake Road, noticed her car was stolen.

It was really weird because the day the car disappeared I went ahead and turned in a report, Gardenhire said. Then (the next day) a friend of mine made a comment that maybe the guy who stole the car ended up staying in the motorhome.

Gardenhire decided to check the motorhome, where she found the wet and muddy prison sweatclothes Puga left behind.

Ever since the prison went in weve thought about what would happen if there was an escape, she said. We always figured we were pretty safe because youd think theyd keep on moving.

According to Gardenhire, Puga was not in a hurry to leave the area or the motorhome.

I figured he was here for one night, stayed the following day, and then left the next night because there was a gallon or more of urine in the porta-potty, she said. That is certainly more than a days worth.

A blotch of dried tuna on the kitchen counter is another remnant the fugitive left behind, along with the screwdriver he used to open the can.

I had the blankets made up, so its obvious he slept in the bed, Gardenhire said as she pointed to a rumpled pile of blankets.

An empty beer can was found on a ledge above the bed and a half-consumed bottle of water rested in the corner of the mattress. Both were taken from a refrigerator in the nearby garage.

Gardenhire said she hasnt let the incident affect her attitude, though.

It didnt appear he was after a weapon or anything, she said. There are scissors in the back he could have taken. I think he just wanted to get away.

Gardenhire also mentioned she had a shotgun just inside the door to the house, which was not locked and apparently was not opened by Puga.

As of yesterday afternoon, the California Highway Patrol said the stolen car still has not been located. It is a tan 4-door 1990 Honda Civic. The license plate number is: 2VYZ782.

Puga, who was serving a four-year sentence for robbery, is originally from Sacramento County and prison authorities said they believe he may try to return to that area.