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San Diego Prison Escapee Captured In East County

A convict who allegedly stole a fire engine to escape from Donovan State Prison on New Year's Day was captured late this morning at an East County trolley depot.

Deputies spotted Thomas Francis Kelly, 51, smoking with a companion at the transit station in the 1700 block of San Altos Place in Lemon Grove shortly before 9:30 a.m., sheriff's Sgt. Chris Steffen said.

Realizing that one of the loitering men matched the escapee's description, the patrol personnel approached him and asked him for his name. Kelly was evasive, but the deputies were able to identify him by a mug shot they were carrying, and he then admitted to his identity, according to Steffen.

Kelly surrendered without incident and was turned over to state parole agents. His cohort, who said he'd just met Kelly, was questioned and released.

Kelly, a minimum-security inmate serving time for a parole violation stemming from a 2008 auto-theft conviction, was reported missing during a head count about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, according to Lt. Patrick Logan, a spokesman for the state corrections system.

Prison guards said Kelley, a member of a prison firefighting crew at the Otay Mesa penitentiary, went missing shortly before sheriff's personnel saw a fire engine being driven erratically through Spring Valley.

The emergency vehicle later was found abandoned outside a 7-Eleven store at Jamacha Road and Elkelton Boulevard, Gilmore said.

Prior to the escape, Kelly had been scheduled for release in December 2013, Logan said.

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