Honduras: teen accused of killing DEA agent escapes youth correction facility

A teen accused of killing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent and implicated in 16 other slayings has escaped from a youth correction facility just as he promised he would officials said Saturday.

Herlan Colindres, a 16-year-old street gang member, slipped out of a rehabilitation center housing 156 youths outside the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa on Friday night, authorities said.

Colindres and his 13-year-old bodyguard Manuel Romero were arrested in July in connection with the murder of DEA agent Michael Timothy Markey outside Tegucigalpa at a temple dedicated to Honduras' patron saint.

He had previously been identified as 13-year-old Erlan Colindres, but authorities said Saturday he was three years older than believed and had modified the spelling of his first name.

Authorities said Markey, 44, who was based in El Paso, Texas, came to Honduras to train local drug police.

Friday was the fifth time in three years that Colindres has escaped from the crumbling facility, where bricks can easily be chipped from the walls.

In August, after threatening to escape and kill journalists, he weakened the metal bars of his cell with a nail file and fled. Colindres was quickly captured, however, while hitchhiking along a nearby highway.

Following that incident, the government built him a special brick-walled cell with a private bathroom. It was unclear how he got out of the new cell, which was watched by six guards.

"We think other imprisoned youths helped him get out," Napoleon Nazar, director of criminal investigation, said in an interview. Further details of the escape were not released.

The government has estimated that 40,000 youths in Honduras belong to the rival Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18 gangs, which have terrorized much of the country since 1996.

In an attempt to curb the violence, the Honduran government instituted a zero-tolerance law that makes gang membership illegal, and has jailed thousands of youngsters for little more than having tattoos.

Police said Colindres was the leader of a Mara 18 affiliate known as Los Puchos. He is suspected of involvement in 16 killings, most of them gang-related, reported AP. P.T.

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