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Thread: Texas Seven

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010

    Texas Seven

    Texas Seven revisited

    The 10th anniversary of the arrest of seven escaped convicts from a Kenedy, Texas, prison is coming up Jan. 22.

    The group that came to be known as the Texas Seven led law enforcement officers on a nationwide man hunt, finally ending up at the Coachlight Motel and RV Park in Woodland Park.

    Taking part in Texas’ single largest escape in recent history, all seven were considered hardened criminals with little to lose even before their daring and well-planned escape. The seven men overpowered a guard and several civilian prison employees on Dec. 13, 2000, and drove off in a white prison truck, also taking clothing and 16 weapons.

    George Rivas, now 40, was considered the ringleader of the group. He was serving a life sentence for 13 counts of aggravated kidnapping with a deadly weapon, four counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and one count of burglary. Donald Newbury, now 48, was serving a 99-year sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon — he was convicted of earlier crimes, paroled and recaptured after committing other robberies.

    Michael Rodriguez, 40 at the time of his escape, was serving a life sentence for capital murder with a deadly weapon. Joseph Garcia, now 39, was serving 50 years for murder. Randy Halprin was serving 30 years for injury to a child. Patrick Murphy, now 49, had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault and was serving 50 years. Larry Harper, 37 at time of escape, also was serving a 50-year sentence for aggravated sexual assault.

    Authorities later blamed the escape on lax security and a series of blunders. The warden was demoted and three guards were suspended for their parts in allowing it to happen.

    On Dec. 14, the seven used the prison truck to rob a Radio Shack in Pearland, Texas. They broke into a store next door to the Radio Shack, broke through a sheet rock wall, tethered the safe to the back of the truck and dragged it out of the building.

    On Dec. 15, two of them stole some police scanners from a Houston Radio Shack. The prison truck was later found abandoned at a nearby Wal-mart store.

    The seven laid low while plotting their next move, but resurfaced Dec. 24, 2000, when they robbed an Irving, Texas, sporting goods store, stealing $70,000 and 25 weapons and killing Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Hawkins was shot 11 times and then run over by the get-away vehicle. It was this crime that eventually landed six of the escapees on the Texas death row.

    Once in Colorado...

    The escapees arrived in Woodland Park around Jan. 1, 2001 and rented a motor home space. They convinced people they were ministers on vacation, going to local coffee shops and bars.

    Based on a tip from Wade Holder, owner of the Coachlight, who saw their photos on “America's Most Wanted,” a combined Teller and El Paso county SWAT team captured Garcia, Rodriguez and Rivas at the Western Convenience Store southeast of Woodland Park on Jan. 22.

    “Each of those men was carrying three guns,” said former Teller County Sheriff Frank Fehn. “But it's one thing to be carrying a gun and another to be staring down the barrel of an automatic. They were overwhelmed with superior manpower and fire power.”

    Halprin was captured when he gave up at the RV park. Harper instead committed suicide inside an RV. Once the captures hit national news, the county was almost overwhelmed as well, but this time with media, many of whom used the nearby Courier office as a home base to set up shop.

    “They were a nuisance,” Fehn said. “With those four in the county jail, the national media were all over us — they trashed the place. They put a tremendous strain on county resources.”

    The last two escapees, Murphy and Newbury, were picked up the next day in a Colorado Springs Holiday Inn, after they made televised statements to a KKTV Channel 11 newscaster.

    “I took 18 to 20 calls from newspapers and TV stations,” said Police Chief Robert Larson of the Woodland Park Police Department. “I expected to hear from newspapers in Texas but I also heard from papers in Boston and New York City.”

    Death sentences around

    Once the Texas Seven were captured, it didn’t take long for the first of them to be convicted and sentenced to die. By Aug. 29, 2001, Rivas was already sitting on death row. Fehn went to Texas six times in 2001, 2002 and 2003 to testify in each case.

    “I don't think the death penalty is a deterrent to murder, but with some animals it’s all we have,” Fehn said. “Most murders are committed in the heat of anger. It’s a loss of control — what starts out a simple argument ends up in something tragic.”

    Newbury joined Rivas on death row on Jan. 28, 2002, followed by Rodriguez on May 9, 2002, Garcia on Feb. 14, 2003, Halprin on June 12 and Murphy on Nov. 13 of the same year. Rodriguez was executed on Aug. 14, 2008, in Huntsville, Texas. He was 48 and, according to an Associated Press report, he claimed a religious conversion and asked that his death-penalty appeals be dropped. No execution dates have been set for the remaining felons.

    Fehn said the situation worked out extremely well because the various agencies involved decided among themselves that there would be no egos.

    Besides Teller and El Paso county sheriff's departments, other agencies included the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Marshal Service, the Irving Police Department, Colorado Springs Police Department and the Woodland Park Police Department.

    “We weren't in on the actual arrests,” Larson said. “The RV park is surrounded by city but that area hasn't been annexed so it's in the county. We helped with traffic control when the captures were taking place, followed up leads to find the other two who were captured in Colorado Springs, ... and helped set up areas for the media to park and set up their equipment.”

    “We all cooperated and it all worked out,” Fehn said.


  2. #2
    Moderator Ryan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Newport, United Kingdom
    As of March 28, 2019, the case status on the Texas Seven.

    Joseph Christopher Garcia - executed 12/4/18
    Randy Ethan Halprin - 5th Circuit denied COA - 12/17/18
    Larry James Harper - committed suicide 1/22/01
    Patrick Henry Murphy, Jr. - execution scheduled for 3/28/19 (stayed)
    Donald Keith Newbury - executed 2/4/15
    George Angel Rivas, Jr. - executed 2/29/12
    Michael Anthony Rodriguez - executed 8/14/08
    "How do you get drunk on death row?" - Werner Herzog

    "When we get fruit, we get the juice and water. I ferment for a week! It tastes like chalk, it's nasty" - Blaine Keith Milam #999558 Texas Death Row


    "I just felt like it. I didn't have to have a reason. I don't believe I've got any humanity. I could kill a person and then just go out for dinner. I don't care." - William Gibson

    "What, around 29 or 30?" - Trevor McDonald

    "Yep." - William Gibson

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