The booking photo of the San Joaquin County Jail fugitive with a distinctive skull tattoo across his face has gone viral, prompting unsubstantiated sightings of his skeletal visage throughout California, a San Joaquin Sheriff’s deputy said Wednesday.
Corey Hughes was incarcerated at Honor Farm, a minimum security wing of the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp. He disappeared from a highway-side work detail near Interstate 5 and Country Club Boulevard on Monday.
Hughes, 27, was a resident of Valley Springs in Calaveras County and was facing weapons charges.
San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer deputy Dave Konecny said people claiming to have seen the tattooed skull-faced man have been coming from “all over” and throughout California, but the investigation has been focused on San Joaquin County specifically.
Hughes’ identifying information had been shared with neighboring counties, he said, and his flight to Calaveras or Tuolumne counties could not be ruled out.
“I did know he had a previous residence up in that area. There's always the potential, because of his knowledge of the area, he could be in that area, too,” he said. “Most of the time the criminals go back to the area that they are most comfortable” in search of “friends and people they can trust.”
Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Rachelle Whiting noted that Hughes had “previous contacts” with deputies and a Valley Springs address, but she did not have specific information about time frames or charges.
“When we were notified that he escaped, we put out a be-on-the-lookout to our patrol officers so they could check his past known locations,” she said.
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Records Department said that a person’s criminal history was not releasable information and would be withheld.
According to the Calaveras County Superior Court, Hughes has two active misdemeanor weapons cases that were reopened in July 2015 for failure to appear on charges of attempting to receive a firearm while prohibited to do so, and for possession of a switchblade knife over 2 inches long and driving with a suspended license.
Hughes also has multiple traffic infractions related to speeding and improper display of registration.
Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Andrea Benson said no specific resources will be allocated to the search for Hughes in Tuolumne County unless information or tips suggest he is “headed our way.”
“All law enforcement personnel have his picture and identifying information to be on the lookout,” she said.
Konecny speculated that, despite the impression that Hughes’ skeletal tattoo would be an instant giveaway to law enforcement, facial markings and scarring were actually more pervasive than the public might realize.
“I'm surprised it's taken this long, but he's probably hunkering down knowing there's so much media attention,” he said. “ Unfortunately, as crazy as it sounds, down here in the valley there's tattoos you see on the face like that. We have a lot of people that look even worse than that, believe it or not.”
Hughes’ tattoo features the rounded edges of teeth connected to a darkened jawbone rising up to the earline. Various shadings track the angles of his face, culminating with black sickles under his eyes and meandering lines around his nose.
Hughes had the tattoo when he was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail on a weapons charge, Konecny said. And though his markings were not a surprise to local law enforcement, Konecny knew that the general public would be intrigued and shocked by the uncommon facial art.
“I knew when I put that out, people were going to go crazy, because normal people don't see that,” he said.
Hughes was set with a release date of Feb. 6, 2018, but will face felony escape charges after his eventual capture, Konecny said. Hughes will also no longer be held in the minimum security Honor Farm and will likely be housed in “the full lockdown facility,” he said.
“You never know what the whole mindset is when you only have three months left on your sentence,” he said. “Why would you want to attract yourself to another felony?”
The San Joaquin Sheriff’s Office requests that anyone who sees Hughes or knows of his whereabouts call (209) 468-4400.