NESS CITY, Kan. - Authorities in Western Kansas are on a manhunt for an escaped convicted sex offender. Benito Cardenas, Jr., 37, broke out of the Ness County Jail at about 10:30 p.m. Friday night, according to Sheriff Bryan Whipple.
"He was spotted in a room in the sheriff's department by an office employee," Whipple said. "That employee alerted the officers on duty, but by that time he made his way out the back door."
An extensive manhunt was quickly put together including manpower from Rush County, Hodgeman County, Kansas Highway Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The search for Cardenas, Jr. was called off at about 3 a.m. Saturday morning, but Cardenas remains on the loose.
"We do not believe he is in our town," said Sheriff Whipple. "I would just advise our citizens to make sure your homes and vehicles are locked. He has connections in Dodge City and Colorado."
Cardenas is identifiable by numerous tattoos on his arms and neck. He also has a tear drop tattoo below his left eye. Sheriff Whipple says Cardenas is a former gang member and is likely still affiliated with gang members in the area.
The following is a press release issued by the Kansas Attorney General just last week:
NESS CITY - (August 2, 2012) - A former Ness City man was found guilty Wednesday of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy under Jessica's Law, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.
Benito Cardenas Jr., 37, formerly of Ness City, was convicted by a jury of the two charges, both off-grid person felonies. Because the victim was under the age of 14, the charges were filed under provisions of Jessica's Law, which carries a possible sentence of life in prison.
The crime occurred in Ness City in September 2010. Cardenas was living in Dodge City at the time of his arrest in April 2011.
Judge Bruce T. Gatterman presided over the trial in Ness County District Court.
Assistant Attorney General Kristiane Bryant of Schmidt's office prosecuted the case. The charges stemmed from an investigation by the Ness County Sheriff's Office assisted by the Attorney General's Office.