The search continues for an inmate who was on a work crew assignment in Rio Rancho when he escaped Tuesday morning, according to a spokesman for the New Mexico Corrections Department.

Twelve inmates from the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility’s minimum-security unit in Los Lunas were working with New Mexico Forestry on cleanup and maintenance near River’s Edge in Rio Rancho. One of them, 49-year-old Manuel Villalobos, said he was going to the bathroom, but never returned, said NMCD spokesman Eric Harrison.

“Upon discovering that Villalobos had not returned and was not in the restroom, correctional staff immediately notified the facility and an Incident Command Center was initiated,” Harrison said.

NMCD’s Security Threat Intelligence Unit and Fugitive Apprehension teams are working with State Police and Rio Rancho Police to find Villalobos. Residents of the River’s Edge neighborhoods between NM 528 and the Rio Grande were advised to stay indoors, secure their homes and vehicles, and, if possible, avoid the area, Harrison said.

Villalobos was one year into his sentence for breaking and entering, burglary of a vehicle, possession of burglary tools and tampering with evidence, and would have been eligible for release in December 2024, Harrison said. He had been arrested and tried in Lea County, and sent to the facility in Los Lunas last April.

The crew was made up of inmates who are classified as level one and have minimum restrictions following an assessment on intake that found they were at a low risk of violence.

Authorities suggest calling 911 if you believe you have had contact with the suspect. Report suspicious activity or any information on Manuel Villalobos’ whereabouts to the Incident Command Center at 505-263-3623.