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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Texas Seven

The Texas 7 was a group of criminals who escaped from the John Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas.

The group was composed of the following criminals:

  • Joseph C. Garcia
  • Randy Ethan Halprin
  • Larry James Harper (deceased)
  • Donald Keith Newbury
  • Patrick Henry Murphy, Jr.
  • George Rivas (Ringleader)
  • Michael Anthony Rodriguez

On December 13, 2000, the criminals put forth a complicated and elaborate scheme which would break themselves free from the prison, ultimately driving out in a white prison truck. The warden grew embarrassed over the escape, since modifications in procedures would have prevented it.

At the time of the breakout, the reported ringleader of the Texas Seven, 30-year-old George Rivas, was already serving 18 life sentences. Michael Anthony Rodriguez, 38, was also serving a life term, while Larry Harper, 37, Joseph Garcia and Patrick Murphy, Jr., 39, all were serving at least 50 years. Donald Keith Newbury, the member with the longest rap sheet of the group, was serving a 99-year term. The youngest member, Randy Halprin, 23, was serving a 30-year sentence for injury to a child.

Each of the escapees were incarcerated at the John B. Connally Unit Prison, a maximum-security facility near the South Texas town of Kenedy.

Using several well-planned ploys, the seven convicts overpowered and restrained nine civilian maintenance supervisors, four correctional officers and three uninvolved inmates at approximately 11:20 a.m. The escape occurred during the slowest period of the day when there would be less surveillance of certain locations like the maintenance area — during lunch and at count time.

In many instances, one of the offenders would create a reason to call someone over, while another hit the unsuspecting person on the head from behind. Once the victim was subdued, the offenders would remove some of his clothing, tie him up, gag him and place him in an electrical room behind a locked door. Fourteen prisoners and uninvolved inmates were bound and gagged.

The attackers stole clothing, credit cards, and identification from their victims. The group also impersonated prison officers on the phone and created false stories to ward off suspicion from authorities.

After that, some of the group made their way to the back gate of the prison, some disguised in stolen civilian clothing. They pretended to be there to install video monitors. One guard at the gatehouse was subdued, and the offenders raided the guard tower and stole numerous weapons.

Meanwhile, the offenders who stayed behind made calls to the prison tower guards to distract them. They then stole a prison maintenance pick-up truck, which they drove to the back gate of the prison and picked up their cohorts.

The seven drove away from the prison.

The white prison truck was found in the Wal-Mart in Kenedy, Texas. The Texas 7 first went into San Antonio right after breaking out of the complex. Realizing that they were running out of funds, they robbed a Radio Shack in Pearland, Texas the next day on December 14 at around 2 AM. In order to bypass the otherwise-competent store security, they entered via a very small-scale adjacent computer software store, wherein they proceeded to knock down the flimsy sheetrock wall to the other side. Once inside and undetected, they tethered the Radio Shack safe to their monster truck, and literally drove the large safe outside of the building, causing havoc to the parking lot and pavement.

On December 19, four of the members checked into an Econo Lodge motel under assumed names. They would plot out which target to hit next.

They later decided to rob an Oshman's sports store in Irving, Texas. On December 24, 2000, they held up the store and stole many weapons. Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins came to the scene, but was shot dead before the gang fled the scene. A $100,000 reward was then offered to whoever could snare the group of criminals. The reward would climb to $500,000 before the denouement of the escape.

Wayne Holder, the owner of an RV Park in Woodland Park, Colorado, happened to watch America's Most Wanted on January 20, 2001. He believed that the Texas 7, who were being compared to Angel Maturino Resendiz, were in his trailer park. When he confirmed this, he reported the suspicious activities to local authorities the next day on January 21.

SWAT Teams found three of the members, Garcia, Rodriguez, and Rivas, in a Jeep Cherokee. Authorities moved in to capture them in a nearby gas station. They then found Halprin and Harper in an RV. Halprin surrendered peacefully, but Harper committed suicide with a pistol. The surviving four members had been arrested.

On January 23, they received information about the whereabouts of the last two. They were hiding out in a Holiday Inn in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A deal brokered between the two, Newbury and Murphy, allowed them to make live TV appearances before they were arrested. A local KKTV television anchorman, Eric Singer, was taken into the hotel where on camera he interviewed the two by telephone. Both of them harshly denounced the criminal justice system in Texas, with Newbury adding "the system is as corrupt as we are."

Authorities later found out that a woman named Patsy Gomez conspired with a man named Raul Rodriguez to help the Texas 7.

George Rivas had been sentenced to death after being extradited to Texas. Since then, all six surviving members of the Texas 7 have been put on death row alongside Rivas, and are all awaiting death by lethal injection.

Break-Out!: Famous Prison Escapes


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