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.
The group included the following Texas state prisoners:
- Joseph Christopher Garcia (born November 6, 1971 in San Antonio, Texas), 29 at the time of the escape. Currently on Texas Death Row awaiting execution.
- Randy Ethan Halprin (born September 13, 1977 in McKinney, Texas), 23 at the time of the escape. Currently on Texas Death Row awaiting execution.
- Larry James Harper (September 10, 1963 in Danville, Illinois – January 22, 2001 in Woodland Park, Colorado), 37 at the time of the escape, 37 at the time of death via suicide. He was not captured by law enforcement.
- Patrick Henry Murphy, Jr. (born October 3, 1961 in Dallas, Texas), 39 at the time of the escape. Currently on Texas Death Row awaiting execution.
- Donald Keith Newbury (May 18, 1962 in Albuquerque, New Mexico – February 4, 2015 in Huntsville, Texas), 38 at the time of the escape, 52 at the time of death, executed.
- George Angel Rivas, Jr. (May 6, 1970 in El Paso, Texas – February 29, 2012 in Huntsville, Texas), 30 at the time of the escape, 41 at the time of death, executed.
- Michael Anthony Rodriguez (October 29, 1962 in San Antonio, Texas – August 14, 2008 in Huntsville, Texas), 38 at the time of the escape, 45 at the time of death, executed.
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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, four correctional officers and three uninvolved inmates at approximately 11:20 a.m. The escape occurred during lunch and at count time, the "slowest" period of the prison day, 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 electronics including warning alarms. The attackers stole clothing, credit cards, and identification from their victims. The group 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.
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. Realizing that they were running out of funds, they robbed a Radio Shack in Pearland, Texas, in Greater Houston, the following day.
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. They decided to rob an Oshman's Sporting Goods in nearby Irving. On December 24, 2000, they entered the store, bound and gagged 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. 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 escaped convicts as they fled the scene. Hawkins died at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas shortly after his arrival.
After Officer Hawkins's murder, a $100,000 reward was offered to whomever could snare the group of criminals. The reward climbed to $500,000 before the group was apprehended.
Following an episode of the television program America's Most Wanted, that first aired on January 20, 2001, several people phoned in possible sightings of the suspects at the Coachlight Motel and R.V. Park in Woodland Park, Colorado. They had apparently tried to pass themselves off as missionaries, playing loud Christian music within earshot of their neighbors.
The FBI Denver SWAT team found Garcia, Rodriguez, and Rivas in a Jeep Cherokee in the RV Park. The FBI followed them to a nearby gas station and arrested them. They 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.
On January 23, 2001 the FBI received information on the whereabouts of the remaining two escapees, Newbury and Murphy. They were hiding in a Holiday Inn in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A deal brokered between the two, allowed them to make live TV appearances before they were arrested. In the early hours of January 24, a local KKTV television anchorman, Eric Singer, was taken into the hotel where he interviewed the two by telephone while on camera. Newbury and Murphy harshly denounced the criminal justice system in Texas, with Newbury adding "the system is as corrupt as we are."
Conviction and execution
In 2008 authorities indicted Patsy Gomez and Raul Rodriguez, the parents of Michael Rodriguez, for conspiring to help the Texas 7.
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. A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation in January 2007 concluded that he was mentally competent to decide to forgo further appeals. Twenty months later he was the first of the 5 surviving members to be executed, on August 14, 2008. Rodriguez was TDCJ#999413, and his pre-death sentence TDCJ number was 698074.
George Rivas, TDCJ#999394, was executed almost 4 years later, on February 29, 2012, at 6:22 pm.
Donald Newbury, TDCJ#999403, was executed by lethal injection on February 4, 2015, at 6:25 pm.
- Garcia has the TDCJ number 00999441,
- Halprin has the TDCJ number 00999453,
- Murphy has the TDCJ number 00999461,
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 eyewitnesses 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.
On July 30, 2014, Investigation Discovery's I (Almost) Got Away With It aired an episode titled "Got to Be Part of the Texas Seven."
Rivas had married a Canadian woman by proxy.
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- "Offenders on Death row" Texas Department of Justice. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
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- "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.
- "Captured convicts appear before judge; advised of rights and pending extradition". CNN. 2001-01-24. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
- "Accomplice to Texas Seven prison escapees indicted in gun charges." Associated Press at The Dallas Morning News. May 24, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
- "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.
- "'Texas 7' Fugitive Who Dropped Appeals Executed." Associated Press at Fox News. Thursday August 14, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
- "Rodriguez, Michael Anthony." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
- "Leader of 'Texas 7' prison-break gang executed." Associated Press at Fox News. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
- "Newbury, Donald Keith." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999403)
- "West Livingston CDP, Texas." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 9, 2010.
- "Garcia, Joseph (00999441)." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999441)
- "Halprin, Randy Ethan." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999453)
- "Murphy, Patrick Henry Jr." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999461)
- Graczyk, Michael. "Leader of 'Texas 7' prison-break gang put to death." Houston Chronicle. Wednesday February 29, 2012. Retrieved on February 29, 2012.
- "Serious Incident Review - Connally Unit - December 13, 2000 at the Wayback Machine (archived February 5, 2001) - Texas Department of Criminal Justice
- Texas Seven Feature at America's Most Wanted
- The Texas 7 Film
- Court TV's complete case file on Texas Seven murder at the Wayback Machine (archived June 13, 2003)
- The Daring Escape of the Texas 7
- Offender information, Texas Department of Criminal Justice
- Timeline of Texas Prison Escape (Archive) - City of Irving
- Aubrey Hawkins (Archive) - City of Irving
- "National Briefing | Southwest: Texas: Escapee Gets Death Sentence." The New York Times. August 30, 2001.
- "Prison Escapee: I Deserve to Die." CBS News. February 11, 2009.