Marco Antonio Cordero, 24, who twice fled jail custody after being arrested on drug charges in January, was sentenced Friday, Sept. 26 to five years to serve in a state penitentiary for escape.
He will soon be transported to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center in Jackson before he is moved to a yet unnamed state penitentiary.
Cordero’s reputation stems from his lengthy criminal history in California, where he had been arrested for theft, assault, weapons and narcotics charges. His local history, though, began with a traffic stop this past spring.
On Jan. 23, Cordero was stopped by two Cedartown patrolmen. Using the name “Mark Anthony Gonzalez,” Cordero and his passenger were found with drugs and various guns. While outside his car, Cordero was being checked for weapons. As former Officer Doug Damiano moved closer, he noticed that Cordero had a nine-millimeter handgun tucked away in his waistline. When Damiano moved to take the pistol from him, Cordero attempted to pull the weapon. Officer Jon Zuker quickly moved into action and the two officers were able to secure the handgun.
Later, the patrolmen examined the contents of Cordero’s car, finding a silver handgun and a fully loaded KBI assault rifle among quantities of methamphetamine, marijuana, syringes and $700 cash.
After being booked at the Polk County Jail on weapons and drug charges, police learned Cordero’s real name. They were also told that he was a deported felon from California, and had been convicted to a seven-year sentence in a California state penitentiary for car jacking, motor vehicle theft, receiving stolen property and participating in criminal gang activity.
A week after his arrest, though, Cordero would escape.
At the Polk jail on Jan. 30, Cordero was waiting in a holding cell with another inmate, Benito Gonzalez. Earlier that day, Gonzalez was arrested by Georgia State Troopers and escorted to the jail. Soon after hearing of their relative’s charges, the Gonzalez family went to the jail and paid his fine and waited for his release.
The jailer, who was in his third month of employment, went to the holding cell and called out, “Gonzalez.” Before Benito Gonzalez could protest, Cordero stood up and went to the jailer, proclaiming himself Mark Gonzalez. Normally, the booking officer is required to compare the inmate with a photograph to confirm his/her identity. This time, the jailer did not have a picture and mistakenly escorted Cordero to the door. By the time the Sheriff’s deputies realized what had happened, Cordero had fled the area. Jail Administrator Major Mike Sullivan said crews spent approximately 41 hours searching for the suspect, but could not locate him.
In the coming weeks, it was rumored that Cordero was staying within the tri-county area. During a search at an area home on March 24, Polk drug agents found a broken window where a suspect had made a hasty escape. The agents believed the suspect was Cordero, though they were not able to positively confirm his presence at the house.
A week after the near-capture, police narrowed their search and located Cordero. On April 2, Polk Sheriff’s deputies, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department went to 120 East 12th Street in Rome and found their suspect. “We had him staked out the night before,” Sullivan said. “From there, we went in and did it.”
Floyd deputies had previously received a tip that Cordero was staying in the area with 27-year-old Stephanie Jane Hodge, of Rome. Sullivan said of Hodge, “We believe that she had been taking him to different locations between counties and giving him a place to live.” She was later charged with hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal.
This, however, would not be Cordero’s last escape attempt.
Nearly two months after being incarcerated for the second time, the elusive subject again found his way out of the Polk County Jail. On Friday, May 30, at approximately 10:30 p.m., an equipment malfunction allowed Cordero and two other inmates to flee the premises on foot. “The lock on the outside door on A-pod had an electrical malfunction that caused it to unlock,” explained Sullivan.
After the cells unlocked, the deputies should have been warned of the escape, but their control panels were off-line at that moment. “The electrical control panel should have warned the officer observing the panel that the door was unlocked; the control panel also failed,” Sullivan said. “Electrical technicians and computer programmers were working on the lock when the escape occurred.”
With the locks deactivated, Cordero, Craig Gene Oswalt and James Travis Edwards ran through a normally-secured door and outside the facility. The three then climbed a fence and ran towards the wooded area behind the jail. This escape, though, would be much more brief than Cordero’s last; he and Oswalt were found within the hour hiding in the woods. Edwards was captured the following morning less than one mile from the jail in the Northview Cemetery.
Since the May 30 escape attempt, Cordero’s stay in the Polk Jail has been uneventful while awaiting his court dates. Within the coming months, Cordero will also face indictment hearings for the first escape charge as well as the January drugs and weapons charges.