ESL teacher may have played a ‘significant role’ in helping 3 OC inmates escape – Los Angeles Times

Hossein Nayeri graduated from high school near Fresno and served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Despite this American upbringing, though, the inmate managed to enroll in an English-as-a-second-language class at Men’s Central Jail in Orange County.

There, he befriended his teacher, Nooshafarin Ravaghi. She was 44 and the author of several children’s books. He was 37 and awaiting trial in a torture and kidnapping case. Both had family roots in Iran.

The two began a written correspondence that a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said was “far closer than appropriate.”

Now, Ravaghi is suspected of helping her student and two other inmates escape. She has admitted to giving Nayeri a Google Maps printout showing the roof of the jail, but has denied providing him with the cutting tools the trio used to break out of the high-security lockup, authorities said.

Officials said Friday that they are still trying to determine whether the two had a romantic relationship — and to explain how Nayeri got into the ESL class in the first place.

“That is our concern, that Mr. Nayeri speaks English,” Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Hallock said. “Why, then, was he attending that class? … It leads us to believe she played a significant role in the planning.”

Ravaghi was arrested Thursday, but has not been charged with a crime.

Those who know Ravaghi say they are stunned that the longtime teacher and author who spoke four languages is accused of playing a part in a jail break. She must have been tricked, several of them said.

The elaborate escape took place Jan. 22 when the three inmates slipped through a hole in a wall and into the jail’s plumbing system. They cut through layers of metal to emerge on the roof, then rappelled down four stories using a rope made of bedsheets.

Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu, 20, who is scheduled to go on trial next month for a 2011 homicide, remain at large. Officials said they might be in the San Jose or Fresno area. Bac Duong, 43, who was jailed on an attempted murder charge, surrendered to authorities Friday.

Jail officials believe that Nayeri was the mastermind of the escape. He has a history of running from the law, fleeing to Iran to avoid the kidnapping and torture charges before being apprehended in the Czech Republic. In 2005, he fled the state after posting bond in a vehicular homicide that killed his passenger.

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