Texas Seven

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The Texas Seven was a group of prisoners who escaped from the John B. Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas, on December 13, 2000. They were apprehended a little more than a month later, on January 21–23, 2001, as a direct result of the television show America's Most Wanted.

Members[edit]

The group included the following Texas state prisoners:

Escape[edit]

On December 13, 2000, the seven carried out an elaborate scheme and escaped from the John B. Connally Unit, a maximum-security state prison near the South Texas city of Kenedy.[9]

At the time of the breakout, the reported ringleader of the Texas Seven, 30-year-old George Rivas, was serving 18 consecutive 15-to-life sentences. Michael Anthony Rodriguez, 38, was serving a 99-to-life term, while Larry James Harper, 37, Joseph Garcia and Patrick Henry Murphy, Jr., 39, were all serving 50 year sentences. Donald Keith Newbury, the member with the longest rap sheet of the group, was serving a 99-year sentence, and the youngest member, Randy Halprin, 23, was serving a 30-year sentence for injury to a child.

Using several well-planned ploys, the seven convicts overpowered and restrained nine civilian maintenance supervisors (including their boss, who was killed when one of the seven struck him in the back of the neck with a small hand operated rammer), four correctional officers and three uninvolved inmates at approximately 11:20 a.m. The escape occurred during the slowest period of the day (during lunch and at count time) when there was less surveillance of certain locations, such as the maintenance area. Most of these plans involved one of the offenders calling someone over, while another hit the unsuspecting person on the head from behind. Once each victim was knocked unconscious, the offenders removed some of his clothing, tied him up, gagged him and placed him in an electrical room behind a locked door, which was full of electrics including warning alarms.

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 this first phase, three 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 trio raided the guard tower and stole numerous weapons. Meanwhile, the four 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, picked up their cohorts, and drove away from the prison.

Gary C. King, who wrote a Crime Library article about the seven, stated that some people compared this breakout to the June 1962 Alcatraz escape that took place decades earlier.[10]

Crime spree[edit]

Aubrey Hawkins, the police officer killed by the Texas Seven.

The white prison truck was found in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart in Kenedy, Texas. The Texas 7 first went into San Antonio right after breaking out of the complex.[11] Realizing that they were running out of funds, they robbed a Radio Shack in Pearland, Texas in Greater Houston the next day on December 14.[12]

On December 19, four of the members checked into an Econo Lodge motel in Farmers Branch, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, under assumed names.[12] They decided to rob an Oshman's Sporting Goods in nearby Irving. On December 24, 2000, they hijacked the store, gagged and tied up all the staff and stole at least 40 guns and sets of ammunition. An off-duty employee standing outside of the store noticed the commotion inside and called police.[13] Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins responded to the call, arrived on the scene and was almost immediately ambushed; his autopsy later showed that he had sustained 11 gunshots and had been run over by the fleeing gang. Hawkins died at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas shortly after his arrival.[14]

After Officer Hawkins's murder, a $100,000 reward was offered to whoever could snare the group of criminals. The reward climbed to $500,000 before the group was apprehended.

Capture and conviction[edit]

The surviving members are held at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit

After the Texas 7 were featured on the television program America's Most Wanted, on January 20, 2001, several people phoned in locating the suspects at the Coachlight Motel and R.V. Park in Woodland Park, Colorado.[15] They had apparently tried to pass themselves off as missionaries, playing loud Christian music within earshot of their neighbors.[9]

The FBI Denver SWAT team found Garcia, Rodriguez, and Rivas in a Jeep Cherokee in the RV Park. The FBI then followed them to a nearby gas station and arrested them. They then found Halprin and Harper in an RV; Halprin surrendered peacefully, but Harper was found dead after a standoff; he had shot himself in the chest with a pistol. The surviving four members were taken into federal custody.[15]

On January 23, the FBI received information on 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.[16] In the early hours of January 24, 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."

Huntsville Unit, where Rivas and Rodriguez died

In 2008 authorities indicted Patsy Gomez and Raul Rodriguez, the father of Michael Rodriguez, for conspiring to help the Texas 7.[17]

George Rivas was sentenced to death after being extradited to Texas. Subsequently, the other four surviving members of the Texas 7 were also sentenced to death along with Rivas.

Rodriguez announced that he wished to forgo any further appeal (beyond the appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, mandatory in all death-penalty cases). He underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation in January 2007, which concluded that he was mentally competent to decide to forgo further appeals, and he was executed on August 14, 2008, the first of the surviving members to be executed.[18][19] Rodriguez was TDCJ#999413, and his pre-death sentence TDCJ number was 698074.[20]

Rivas, TDCJ#999394, was executed on February 29, 2012, at 6:22 pm.[21]

As of March 2012 the remaining members are incarcerated on death row at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), located in West Livingston:[22]

  • Garcia has the TDCJ number 00999441,[23]
  • Halprin has the TDCJ number 00999453,[24]
  • Murphy has the TDCJ number 00999461,[25]
  • Newbury has the TDCJ number 00999403,[26]

Media portrayals[edit]

In 2007, Wild Dream Films produced The Hunt For The Texas 7, a 90-minute feature documentary about the prison break. The film was aired in late September 2008 on MSNBC. The film features interviews with members of The Texas 7 currently on Death Row and eye witnesses to their crimes.

On March 25, 2011, Investigation Discovery aired an episode about the case subtitled "The Deadly Seven". One year later, on March 23, 2012, Investigation Discovery aired an episode of Werner Herzog's documentary series On Death Row which dealt with Rivas and Garcia. The seven were also featured in an episode of Real Prison Breaks on ITV4 in the UK.

Rivas had married a Canadian woman by proxy.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 12. Retrieved on September 27, 2009.
  2. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 13. Retrieved on September 27, 2009.
  3. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 14. Retrieved on September 27, 2009.
  4. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 10. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  5. ^ "Offenders on Death row" Texas Department of Justice.[1] Retrieved June 15,2011.
  6. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 11. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  7. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 16. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  8. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 15. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  9. ^ a b "Mastermind of Texas Seven prison escape, officer’s slaying to be executed." The Dallas Morning News, February 28, 2012
  10. ^ King, Gary C."The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 6. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  11. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 8. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  12. ^ a b King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 9. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  13. ^ King, Gary C."The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 17. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  14. ^ King, Gary C."The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 18. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  15. ^ a b "FBI searching for 2 Texas escapees still on the loose". CNN. 2001-01-22. Archived from the original on February 9, 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  16. ^ "Captured convicts appear before judge; advised of rights and pending extradition". CNN. 2001-01-24. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  17. ^ "Accomplice to Texas Seven prison escapees indicted in gun charges." Associated Press at The Dallas Morning News. May 24, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  18. ^ "August 14 execution date for Texas 7 member". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 2008-05-08. Archived from the original on May 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  19. ^ "'Texas 7' Fugitive Who Dropped Appeals Executed." Associated Press at Fox News. Thursday August 14, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  20. ^ "Rodriguez, Michael Anthony." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  21. ^ "Leader of 'Texas 7' prison-break gang executed." Associated Press at Fox News. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  22. ^ "West Livingston CDP, Texas." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 9, 2010.
  23. ^ "Garcia, Joseph (00999441)." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999441)
  24. ^ "Halprin, Randy Ethan." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999453)
  25. ^ "Murphy, Patrick Henry Jr." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999461)
  26. ^ "Newbury, Donald Keith." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999403)
  27. ^ Graczyk, Michael. "Leader of 'Texas 7' prison-break gang put to death." Houston Chronicle. Wednesday February 29, 2012. Retrieved on February 29, 2012.

External links[edit]