Texas Seven

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The Texas 7 were a group of prisoners who escaped from the John B. Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas, on December 13, 2000. Six of the seven were apprehended over a month later, between January 21–23, 2001, as a direct result of the television show America's Most Wanted. One of them committed suicide before he could be arrested. The six surviving members were all convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Irving, Texas police officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins, who was shot and killed when responding to a robbery perpetrated by the Texas Seven. Four of the six sentenced have since been executed.


The group included the following Texas state prisoners:

  • Joseph Christopher Garcia (November 6, 1971, in San Antonio, Texas – December 4, 2018, in Huntsville, Texas), executed.[1][2]
    • Garcia was originally convicted of murder for killing a man during a drunken altercation.[3]
  • Randy Ethan Halprin (born September 13, 1977, in McKinney, Texas), on Texas Death Row awaiting execution.[4]
    • Halprin was originally convicted for child abuse after "[breaking] a 16-month-old's arms and legs, fracturing his skull and beating his face until one eye filled with blood."[5]
  • Larry James Harper (September 10, 1963, in Danville, Illinois – January 22, 2001, in Woodland Park, Colorado), committed suicide before he could be captured by law enforcement.[6]
    • Harper was originally convicted of aggravated sexual assault.[7]
  • Patrick Henry Murphy Jr. (born October 3, 1961, in Dallas, Texas), on Texas Death Row awaiting execution.[8]
    • Murphy was originally convicted for aggravated sexual assault after "breaking into a woman's home and sexually assaulting her at knifepoint."[9]
  • Donald Keith Newbury (May 18, 1962, in Albuquerque, New Mexico – February 4, 2015, in Huntsville, Texas), executed.[10][11]
    • Newbury was originally convicted for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.[12]
  • George Angel Rivas Jr. (May 6, 1970, in El Paso, Texas – February 29, 2012, in Huntsville, Texas), executed.
    • Rivas was originally convicted of robbery.[13]
  • Michael Anthony Rodriguez (October 29, 1962, in San Antonio, Texas – August 14, 2008, in Huntsville, Texas), executed.


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.[15]

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 for contracting the murder of his wife by Rolando Ruiz Jr. (who was sentenced to death and subsequently executed in March 2017 for his involvement in the killing);[16] while Larry James Harper, 37, Joseph Garcia, 29, and Patrick Henry Murphy Jr., 39, were all serving 50-year sentences. Donald Keith Newbury, 38, the member with the longest rap sheet in the group, was serving a 99-year sentence. Randy Halprin, 23, was serving a 30-year sentence for injury to a child, and was the youngest member.[17]

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. 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 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.[citation needed]

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 called 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.[citation needed]

Michael Rodriguez's father had provided the men a getaway car. For this act, he was convicted of a crime himself.[18]

A Crime Library article about the seven compared the breakout to the June 1962 Alcatraz escape that occurred decades earlier.[19]

Crime spree and Aubrey Hawkins[edit]

Aubrey Hawkins, the police officer killed by the Texas Seven

The white prison truck was found in the Walmart parking lot in Kenedy, Texas. The Texas Seven first entered San Antonio right after breaking out of the complex.[20] Realizing that they were running out of funds, they robbed a Radio Shack in Pearland, Texas, in Greater Houston, the following day.[21]

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.[21] 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, Including $70,000 from the store's safe. An ex-employee in her car outside the store noticed the commotion inside and called the police. Irving police officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins[22] (February 23, 1971 – December 24, 2000) responded to the call and, upon arriving at the scene, was almost immediately ambushed, being shot 11 times and run over by the escaped convicts as they fled the scene. Hawkins died at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas shortly after his arrival.[23] Hawkins had been an officer with the Irving police department since October 4, 1995, and was married and had a son.[22]

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


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

Following an episode of the television show 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.[24] They had apparently tried to pass themselves off as missionaries, playing loud Christian music within earshot of their neighbours.[15]

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Colorado, and Teller County Deputies SWAT team found Garcia, Rodriguez, and Rivas in a Jeep Cherokee in the RV Park, before following them to a nearby gas station where they were arrested, and later found Halprin and Harper in an RV; Halprin surrendered peacefully, but Harper was found dead after a standoff, having shot himself in the chest with a pistol. The surviving four were taken into federal custody.[24]

On January 23, 2001, the FBI received information that the remaining two escapees, Newbury and Murphy, were hiding in a Holiday Inn in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A deal was brokered with the two, allowing them to make live TV appearances before they were arrested.[25] Media was tipped off when a guest asked KKTV chief photographer Mike Petkash and reporter Jeannette Hinds why he couldn't get to the hotel. The pair drove to the hotel, finding it flooded with law enforcement. 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."[26]

Convictions and executions[edit]

Huntsville Unit, where Rivas, Rodriguez, Newbury, and Garcia were executed

In 2008, authorities indicted Patsy Gomez and Raul Rodriguez, the parents of Michael Rodriguez, for conspiring to help the Texas Seven.[27]

George Rivas, the ringleader, was the first to be brought to trial; he was convicted and sentenced to death. Subsequently, the other five surviving members of the Texas Seven were brought to trial, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Rodriguez announced that he wished to forgo further appeal beyond the mandatory death-penalty appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation in January 2007 concluded that he was mentally competent to decide to forgo further appeals. Twenty months later, he became the first of the six surviving members to be executed on August 14, 2008, at 18:30.[28][29] Rodriguez was TDCJ#999413, and his pre-death sentence TDCJ number was 698074.[30]

George Rivas, TDCJ#999394, was executed almost four years later, on February 29, 2012, at 18:22.[31]

Donald Newbury, TDCJ#999403,[32] was executed by lethal injection on February 4, 2015, at 18:25.

Joseph Garcia, TDCJ#999441,[33] was executed by lethal injection on December 4, 2018, at 18:43.

The remaining two members are incarcerated on death row at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, located in West Livingston.[34] Neither currently has an execution date.

  • Halprin has the TDCJ number 00999453.[35]
  • Murphy has the TDCJ number 00999461.[36]

Murphy was scheduled for execution twice, first on March 28, 2019.[37] The United States Supreme Court granted him a last-minute reprieve on the basis that TDCJ's denial of his request to have a Buddhist priest in the execution room with him violated the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution.[38] Murphy was then given a second execution date, November 13, 2019. However, his execution was stayed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas on November 7 to decide whether his religious discrimination lawsuit had merit.[39]

Halprin was scheduled to be executed on October 10, 2019. However, his execution was stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on October 4, 2019, due to concerns of racial and religious discrimination from his trial judge.[40] Halprin is Jewish. Trial Judge Vickers "Vic" Cunningham allegedly referred to Halprin as a "kike" and a "fucking Jew" and said Jews "needed to be shut down because they controlled all the money."[41]

The bodies of Harper, Rodriguez, Newbury, and Garcia are buried at Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery.[42][43][44][45]

Hawkins's mother Jayne died of leukemia in 2007.[46]

Media portrayals[edit]

In 2001, the American Court TV (now TruTV) television series Mugshots released an episode covering Rivas, titled Mugshots - George Rivas.[47]

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

On March 25, 2011, Investigation Discovery aired an episode about the case on the show FBI: Criminal Pursuit, 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.[48] [49] Halprin had also married by proxy. [50]

In Spring 2019, ITV UK produced the series: Death Row: Countdown To Execution hosted by Susanna Reid. Episode 1 chronicles the case of one of the members of Texas 7: Patrick Murphy. The series aired in the UK in June 2019.[51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Offenders on Death row" Texas Department of Justice.[1] Archived November 20, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  2. ^ "4th 'Texas 7' prison escapee executed for killing officer". ABC13 Houston. December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Blakinger, Keri (December 4, 2018). "'Texas 7' escapee Joseph Garcia executed in Huntsville". HoustonChronicle.com.
  4. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 13 Archived June 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  5. ^ "Jewish Texas 7 member says judge who sent him to death row is anti-Semitic, asks for new trial". Dallas News. June 11, 2019.
  6. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 14 Archived July 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  7. ^ Henderson, Jim; Williams, John; Chronicle, Copyright 2001 Houston (January 23, 2001). "Inmate's suicide foretold". Houston Chronicle.
  8. ^ "Offenders on Death row" Texas Department of Justice.[2] Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  9. ^ Tribune, The Texas; McCullough, Jolie (March 28, 2019). "In last-minute ruling, U.S. Supreme Court stops execution of "Texas Seven" prisoner". The Texas Tribune.
  10. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library.11 Archived August 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  11. ^ "Texas executes Donald Newbury". Death Penalty News. deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com. February 5, 2015.
  12. ^ Tribune, The Texas; Langford, Terri (February 4, 2015). "Member of "Texas Seven" Executed". The Texas Tribune.
  13. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 16. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  14. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7". Crime Library. Archived from the original on May 1, 2004. Retrieved September 27, 2009. [...]but that was as far as the similarities between the two men went. While Garcia [...] in his classic yellow Mercedes-Benz.
  15. ^ a b "Mastermind of Texas Seven prison escape, officer's slaying to be executed." The Dallas Morning News, February 28, 2012
  16. ^ "Remorseful hit man in Texas murder-for-hire slaying executed". CBS News. March 8, 2017.
  17. ^ "A Jewish man was sentenced to death by an antisemitic judge, the court finds. Now, he could get a second chance". By Jaclyn Peiser for The Washington Post. Published Oct. 13, 2021 https://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/A-Jewish-man-was-sentenced-to-death-by-an-16529258.php
  18. ^ Graczyk, Michael. "'I've done horrible things': 1st 'Texas 7' escapee executed" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. Thursday August 14, 2008. Retrieved on March 3, 2016.
  19. ^ King, Gary C."The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 6. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  20. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 8. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  21. ^ a b King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 9. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  22. ^ a b "Officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins #830." City of Irving. August 27, 2008. Retrieved on January 8, 2019.
  23. ^ King, Gary C."The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 18. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  24. ^ a b "FBI searching for 2 Texas escapees still on the loose". CNN. January 22, 2001. Archived from the original on February 9, 2006. Retrieved June 28, 2007.
  25. ^ "Captured convicts appear before a judge; advised of rights and pending extradition". CNN. January 24, 2001. Retrieved June 28, 2007.
  26. ^ News, ABC. "Transcript of Escapees' Interview." ABC News. ABC News Network, January 24, 2001.
  27. ^ "Accomplice to Texas Seven prison escapees indicted in gun charges." Associated Press at The Dallas Morning News. May 24, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  28. ^ "14 August execution date for Texas 7 member". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. May 8, 2008. Archived from the original on May 8, 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
  29. ^ "'Texas 7' Fugitive Who Dropped Appeals Executed." Associated Press at Fox News. Thursday August 14, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  30. ^ "Rodriguez, Michael Anthony." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  31. ^ "Leader of 'Texas 7' prison-break gang executed." Associated Press at Fox News. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  32. ^ "Newbury, Donald Keith Archived 2009-07-05 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999403)
  33. ^ "Death Row Information". www.tdcj.state.tx.us. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  34. ^ "West Livingston CDP, Texas Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 9, 2010.
  35. ^ "Halprin, Randy Ethan Archived 2009-07-05 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999453)
  36. ^ "Murphy, Patrick Henry Jr. Archived 2009-07-05 at the Wayback Machine" Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved January 5, 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999461)
  37. ^ "Second-to-last 'Texas 7' escapee gets March execution date - HoustonChronicle.com". www.chron.com. December 10, 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  38. ^ "'Texas 7' prison-break gang member gets execution reprieve". www.apnews.com. March 28, 2019. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  39. ^ Whitely, Jason. "Texas 7 Escapee Gets Second Stay of Execution after Argument over Religious Discrimination". WFAA. WFAA. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  40. ^ Tribune, The Texas; McCullough, Jolie (October 4, 2019). ""Texas Seven" member Randy Halprin wins stay of execution amid claim of anti-Semitic judge". The Texas Tribune.
  41. ^ Bella, Timothy. "A judge who sentenced a Jewish inmate used anti-Semitic slurs, lawyers say. They want a new trial before he's executed". Washington Post.
  42. ^ "Larry James Harper (1963-2001) - Find a Grave". Find a Grave.
  43. ^ "Michael Anthony Rodriguez (1962-2008) - Find A". Find a Grave.
  44. ^ "Donald Keith Newbury (1962-2018) - Find a Grave". Find a Grave.
  45. ^ "Joseph Christopher Garcia (1971-2018) - Find A". Find a Grave.
  46. ^ "Jayne Hawkins Obituary (2007) the Dallas Morning News".
  47. ^ "MUGSHOTS: George Rivas". FilmRise. Court TV. 2001. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  48. ^ Graczyk, Michael. (February 29, 2012). "Leader of 'Texas 7' prison-break gang put to death". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on March 3, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  49. ^ "Texas 7' prison-break leader executed". Houston Chronicle. ASSOCIATED PRESS. February 29, 2012. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  50. ^ Korosec, Thomas (June 2011). "The Death Row Inmate and His Cunning Bride". D Magazine. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  51. ^ "Death Row: Countdown To Execution Episode 1". Press Centre. Retrieved April 10, 2020.

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