Otoe County officials say an inmate who escaped from a state Department of Roads work assignment Thursday broke into a house north of Syracuse the day before.
Chief Deputy Mike Holland said the Department of Roads established one-lane traffic and closed driveways during work on Highway 50 north of Syracuse and Juan Rameriz, 33, was working as a traffic flagman.
He said the owners of the house were on vacation, but relatives called deputies Thursday after finding a broken dead-bolt latch on on the door.
Deputies contacted the Department of Corrections supervisor accompanying the road crew and learned that Rameriz had been assigned to the driveway of the house.
Holland said during an interview with Otoe County deputies, Rameriz admitted to entering the house to use the bathroom, but said he did not take anything.
Authorities decided that Rameriz would be transported back to the Community Corrections Center in Lincoln, but fled the van near 27th Street and Highway 2.
A search, which included a helicopter and K-9 units, ended 2 1/2 hours later when he was found hiding in a bush beneath a tree at Tierra Park around 3:30 p.m.
Holland said deputies are following up with the owners of the house to determine if anything is missing.
Holland said Rameriz had $10 on him when he was searched.
Larry Wayne, deputy director of programs and community service, said inmates are allowed to have up t $50 cash while on work release or furlough.
Wayne said he does not know what triggered "an unfortunate lapse of judgement" for Rameriz, but said the contact with Otoe County deputies was likely on his mind before he escaped.
Rameriz, who began a 10 to 15-year sentence for two counts of possession of stolen firearms and a count of burglary form Dawes County in March of 2008, was scheduled for a parole hearing in August.
Wayne said his behavior in the corrections system had been stable and his conduct good and said he would have likely been paroled.
He said the work program is intended to promote the safety of the public by giving inmates opportunity to work with private employers and help them integrate back into society prior to their release.
"There have been tens of thousands of inmates involved over the years and the vast majority are successful and go on to parole or discharge," Wayne said.