SAN QUENTIN, Calif. - A convicted sex offender who scaled a razor-wire fence in a pre-dawn escape from San Quentin State Prison remained on the loose Monday after authorities - in a case of mistaken identity - arrested his brother and prematurely reported his recapture.
''He apparently looks a lot like his brother. He was taken to jail and fingerprinted and we discovered it was not him,'' said Stephen Greene, assistant secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency in Sacramento. ''The other guy's still on the loose.
''This happens occasionally. Either the brother was there as a decoy or in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't know which one it was at this time.''
The mix-up led officials to announce that they had recaptured Eduardo Mariscal at his girlfriend's home in Santa Rosa, about 50 miles north of the prison and about 12 hours after he escaped.
''We are out actively looking for him,'' said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon.
Investigators from the state Department of Correction were concentrating their search in Marin County, where the prison is located, and in neighboring Sonoma County, chasing leads that Mariscal has friends and family in the area, and that his girlfriend had recently sent him a letter breaking off their relationship, officials said.
Mariscal, 31, was being housed in a medium-security dormitory-style cellblock with hundreds of other inmates, and somehow managed to walk out of the building unnoticed between the 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. head counts, said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon.
About 200 feet away, near a perimeter fence that is 14 feet high and topped with razor wire, a pair of gloves and a blanket were found on the ground. Authorities believe Mariscal threw the blanket over the razor wire before scaling the fence.
''It doesn't look like he had any assistance from inside,'' Crittendon said.
Mariscal was sentenced in May 1994 for sex offenses involving minors. He had a tentative release date of July 2001 and scheduled to be paroled as early as May.
The prison, which opened in 1852, is California's oldest and houses its death row. It was designed to hold nearly 3,300 inmates but currently houses 5,850.
Crittendon did not immediately know how many prisoners have escaped from San Quentin or exactly when the last one took place, except that it was at least three years ago.