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 all 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:


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.[11]

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); while Larry James Harper, 37, Joseph Garcia, 29 , 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.[citation needed]

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, 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.[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 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.[citation needed]

Michael Rodriguez's father had provided a getaway car for the men. For this act he was convicted of a crime himself.[12]

A Crime Library article about the seven compared the breakout to the June 1962 Alcatraz escape that took place decades earlier.[13]

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 Walmart in Kenedy, Texas. The Texas 7 first went into San Antonio right after breaking out of the complex.[14] Realizing that they were running out of funds, they robbed a Radio Shack in Pearland, Texas, in Greater Houston, the following day.[15]

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.[15] 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.[16] Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins (February 23, 1971 - December 24, 2000) responded to the call, and on 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.[17]

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 group was 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.[18] They had apparently tried to pass themselves off as missionaries, playing loud Christian music within earshot of their neighbours.[11]

The FBI Denver 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.[18]

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.[19] 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."[20]

Conviction and execution[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 7.[21]

George Rivas was sentenced to death after being extradited to Texas. Subsequently, the other five surviving members of the Texas 7 were also sentenced to death along with Rivas.[citation needed]

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 six surviving members to be executed, on August 14, 2008.[22][23] Rodriguez was TDCJ#999413, and his pre-death sentence TDCJ number was 698074.[24]

George Rivas, TDCJ#999394, was executed almost four years later, on February 29, 2012, at 18:22.[25]

Donald Newbury, TDCJ#999403,[26] was executed by lethal injection on February 4, 2015, at 18:25.

Joseph Garcia, TDCJ#999441,[27] 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:[28]

  • Halprin has the TDCJ number 00999453,[29]
  • Murphy has the TDCJ number 00999461.[30]

Of the two surviving members, only Murphy has an execution date - specifically March 28, 2019.[6]

Media portrayals[edit]

In 2001, the American Court TV (now TruTV) television series Mugshots released an episode covering Rivas, titled Mugshots - George Rivas.[31]

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 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.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Offenders on Death row" Texas Department of Justice.[1] Retrieved 1 Sep 2017.
  2. ^ "4th 'Texas 7' prison escapee executed for killing officer". ABC13 Houston. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  3. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 13. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  4. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 14. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  5. ^ "Offenders on Death row" Texas Department of Justice.[2] Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Second-to-last 'Texas 7' escapee gets March execution date - HoustonChronicle.com". www.chron.com. 2018-12-10. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  7. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library.11. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  8. ^ "Texas executes Donald Newbury". Death Penalty News. deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com. 5 February 2015.
  9. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 16. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  10. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 15. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  11. ^ a b "Mastermind of Texas Seven prison escape, officer’s slaying to be executed." The Dallas Morning News, 28 February 2012
  12. ^ Graczyk, Michael. "'I've done horrible things': 1st 'Texas 7' escapee executed" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. Thursday August 14, 2008. Retrieved on March 3, 2016.
  13. ^ King, Gary C."The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 6. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  14. ^ King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 8. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  15. ^ a b King, Gary C. "The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 9. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  16. ^ King, Gary C."The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 17. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  17. ^ King, Gary C."The Daring Escape of the Texas 7." Crime Library. 18. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  18. ^ a b "FBI searching for 2 Texas escapees still on the loose". CNN. 2001-01-22. Archived from the original on 9 February 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  19. ^ "Captured convicts appear before judge; advised of rights and pending extradition". CNN. 2001-01-24. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  20. ^ News, ABC. "Transcript of Escapees' Interview." ABC News. ABC News Network, 24 Jan. 2001.
  21. ^ "Accomplice to Texas Seven prison escapees indicted in gun charges." Associated Press at The Dallas Morning News. 24 May 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  22. ^ "14 August execution date for Texas 7 member". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 2008-05-08. Archived from the original on 8 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  23. ^ "'Texas 7' Fugitive Who Dropped Appeals Executed." Associated Press at Fox News. Thursday 14 August 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2009.
  24. ^ "Rodriguez, Michael Anthony." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
  25. ^ "Leader of 'Texas 7' prison-break gang executed." Associated Press at Fox News. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  26. ^ "Newbury, Donald Keith." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved 5 January 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999403)
  27. ^ "Death Row Information". www.tdcj.state.tx.us. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  28. ^ "West Livingston CDP, Texas." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 9, 2010.
  29. ^ "Halprin, Randy Ethan." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on 5 January 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999453)
  30. ^ "Murphy, Patrick Henry Jr." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved 5 January 2010. (Enter TDCJ ID 00999461)
  31. ^ "MUGSHOTS: George Rivas". FilmRise. Court TV. 2001. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  32. ^ Graczyk, Michael. "Leader of 'Texas 7' prison-break gang put to death." Houston Chronicle. Wednesday, 29 February 2012. Retrieved on 29 February 2012.

External links[edit]