Houssein Nayeri is a convicted criminal who reached infamy when he escaped from Orange County Jail, recorded the escape and his days on the run. He was convicted in the kidnap and torture of a marijuana dispensary owner and Mary Barnes.
Adam Houssein Nayeri fled multiple times. The first time, he was a teenager who recently completed Marine Corps boot camp and fled his post. Then, he was charged in the vehicular manslaughter death of his friend, and fled the country to Iran. Finally, his escape from Orange County Jail made national headlines.
Nayeri’s case is being examined on ABC 20/20. Nayeri spoke to ABC News before he faced trial, saying he wanted to tell the whole story. The episode airs at 9 p.m. EST Friday, March 13, 2020 on ABC.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hossein Nayeri Filmed His Own Jailbreak & Days on the Run on a Contraband Cellphone
Hossein Nayeri used a contraband cellphone to film his daring escape from a maximum security wing at an Orange County jail in 2016. In 2017, NBC4 shared a video, showing the first-person vantage point of the escapees and scenes of their days on the run. You can watch the video here. The three men, along with a cab driver, evaded law enforcement in a statewide manhunt for more than a week. Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu were captured in San Francisco. The third man, Bac Duong, turned himself in before the arrest.
“The video was provided by an attorney connected to the case, not by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, and was clearly heavily edited. It contains voice-overs by one of the escapees, recorded after their capture, giving his version of events and railing against the legal system; pop music as background to their odyssey; news clips about their flight from the law; and — most revealing — the cellphone video of their escape and their time on the run,” NBC Los Angeles reported.
In the video, Nayeri lifts a sawed-off bunk bed leg to expose a cut metal screen. He goes through the vent, followed by the two others, crawling through plumbing shafts that tear at their clothing. At one point, Nayeri stops to give the camera a thumbs up. They remove more metal bars, and noises from a wind turbine can be heard in the background.
The Santa Ana skyline comes into view as the inmates reach the rooftop of the Orange County Jail.
The video does not show how the inmates got to the ground, but Nayeri says on the recording they had industrial rope, a toolbox, a duffle bag and new clothes.
They take turns posing at the corner of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.
2. Hossein Nayeri & Jonathan Tieu Were Captured After a Witness Tipped Off Police
It took eight days and a statewide manhunt before Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu were captured in San Francisco. A witness recognized a white van from reports, and suspected it was the one stolen from Whole Foods and used in their caper. Nayeri ran from police after he was spotted, but he was arrested after a brief foot chase, according to the Los Angeles Times. Tieu was found hiding inside. He was arrested without incident.
“I can say this morning that the entire state can breathe a sigh of relief,” Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said said at a news briefing that day.
“This is one of a sheriff’s worst nightmares,” said Hutchens, adding that she did a “big whoop in the air” when she learned of the arrests.
The third escapee, Bac Duong, was accused of stealing the van after responding to an ad on Craigslist. He turned himself in before the arrest of Nayeri and Tieu. The three men drove to northern California and checked into a motel in San Jose, the Los Angeles Times reported. Duong surrendered after one of his friends called the police.
3. Hossein Nayeri Described Himself as a ‘Average Person’ Who Doesn’t Want to Hurt Anyone
Adam Hossen Nayeri spoke with ABC 20/20 before his trial, and said he did not want to hurt anyone.
“I’m just an average, ordinary person. Simple as that,” he said. “I have many flaws. Wanting to hurt people is definitely not one of them.”
He told ABC how he committed his jailbreak and said he was innocent of the charges he was about to face at trial. He was eventually convicted at trial of kidnapping a marijuana dispensary owner, Michael, and Mary Barnes from their Newport Beach, California, home. The men cut off Michael’s penis, burned him with a blowtorch and doused him with bleach. They left Michael and Mary Barnes in the Mojave Desert and drove away with Michael’s penis.
“Cutting it off is one thing. Ensuring that it is never recovered to be reattached is a level of depravity and cruelty that…this man should never get out of prison,” said Matt Murphy, the former senior deputy district attorney for Orange County who prosecuted Nayeri’s case and who is now an ABC News consultant.
Nayeri described his co-conspirators as “business partners,” and said he believed Michael had buried $1 million in cash in the desert.
“[I want] to get my side of the story out,” Nayeri said. “The true version of what happened.”
4. Adam Hossein Nayeri Was a U.S. Marine & Fled His Post Shortly After Boot Camp
Houssen Nayeri became infamous when he and two other inmates escaped Orange County Jail. He also fled the country after he was charged with involuntary manslaughter following the death of his friend in a car accident in 2005. He fled to his home country of Iran to escape the charges. But the first time Nayeri ever escaped was when he fled his post as a U.S. Marine, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Nayeri enlisted in the Marine Corps as a teen in 1998. Shortly after he completed boot camp, he fled his post at Camp Pendleton, the newspaper reported.
He remained missing from October 1998 to March 1999. After he was found, he was labeled a deserter, sentenced to the brig for 47 days, court-martialed him and kicked him out under a “bad conduct” discharge, Marines spokeswoman Yvonne Carlock told the Los Angeles Times.
“He barely earned the title Marine,” she told the newspaper.
However, he still used his military service to ask for leniency in the manslaughter death of his friend.
“After careful consideration, we decided to join the Marine Corps because we wanted a challenge and the Marine Corps was perceived as the toughest and the best,” Nayeri wrote in a sentencing letter to a judge in 2009. “I even took it a step further and worked hard and qualified for Reconnaissance School.”
5. Hossein Nayeri’s Wife, Cortney Shegerian, Said She Was ‘Terrified’ of Him
Cortney Shegerian, who was Hossein Nayeri’s wife at the time of many of his crimes, testified at his trial that she was “terrified” of her husband, according to the Los Angeles Times. She testified Nayeri was controlling and abusive. She eventually pressed charges against Nayeri for physical abuse, but agreed to a plea deal which ordered him to complete counseling.
Shegerian met Nayeri when she was a teenager. She kept their relationship a secret from her parents, even after they were married, according to ABC News even after she married him years later. They were evantually divorced.
Hossein Nayeri denied having much involvement with the kidnap and torture of dispensary owner Michael and Mary Barnes. He denied playing a part in the kidnap, torture and mutilation, but admitted that he carried out video surveillance on Michael for months before the kidnapping.
“Obviously, there was some involvement that I did have,” Nayeri told ABC News. “I just had no clue that it was going to turn into [the] mess that it did.”
Nayeri was linked to the kidnapping after police found a glove with his DNA in it inside of a truck belonging to Kyle Handley, who had been arrested in connection to the kidnapping, torture and mutilation.