Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Daring Escape of the
Texas 7


Donald Keith Newbury mugshot
Donald Keith Newbury

Donald Keith Newbury, 38, was born on May 18, 1962, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although there are no apparent arrest records there for Newbury, he was a three-time felon with a criminal record in Texas that dates back to 1981. Among the seven escapees, Newbury has the longest rap sheet.

According to court records, Newbury first went to prison for an armed robbery he committed in Austin, Texas, in 1981. After serving only a few years he was paroled, but was convicted of armed robbery a second time in 1987, also in Austin, and was the prime suspect in approximately twelve other armed robberies there in 1986 and 1987. Three of those in which he was a suspect included hotels, another involved the robbery of a cabdriver, two at surplus stores, and another involving a Trailways bus.

Following his release from his second prison term in the early 1990s, Newbury met a woman and moved in with her and her two children in a rural area outside Austin. At that time, according to acquaintances, it appeared that Newbury was making an effort to go straight. He urged his girlfriend and her children to stay out of trouble, and was known to refer to the movie, American Me, a film that depicts prison life. He was always telling his girlfriend and her kids that that's what it is like in prison, and urged them not to ever do anything that would cause them to end up behind bars.

Despite his efforts, he had a tough time finding work as an ex-con in the small town where he lived, and ended up working as a laborer for an ex-felon, a direct violation of parole regulations that prohibit parolees from associating with other ex-convicts. He was eventually brought in on a parole violation.

"His parole officer from that area testified on his behalf as to basically how difficult it was to make it in a rural area when you're on parole," said his attorney, Kent Anschutz. "It's hard enough to get work as a parolee in a big city, probably double that in a small town...I'd say he's average or above-average intelligence. He struck me as actually a pretty likable old boy who had made some bad decisions."

In addition to being likable and good to the woman and children he was living with, Newbury was not known to drink or to do drugs. However, no matter how hard he tried, Newbury apparently could not refrain from making those bad decisions. On July 18, 1997, Newbury, wielding a sawed-off shotgun, walked into a La Quinta Inn just off Interstate 35 in Austin and robbed the desk clerk of $65 cash. That robbery, along with a string of other robberies that he was suspected of committing along I-35, earned him the moniker, "the I-35 Robber."

"You were lucky," Newbury told the clerk as he turned and ran out.

The police obtained a surveillance tape from the hotel's management and released segments of it depicting the robbery to the public, and it didn't take long for the police to close in and capture him.

"He was almost a likable guy," said Austin Police Sgt. Mark Balagia, who helped capture Newbury for the I-35 robberies, "if you didn't think about what he had done."

At the time of his escape from the Connally Unit, Newbury was described as a 6'1", 202 pound white man with brown hair and eyes. He had identifying scars on the top of his right knee, another under his left eye, and a scar from a medical procedure on the outside of his right elbow. He also has tattoos all over his body, including on his neck, and a distinctive tattoo of a lizard on his upper left arm.