Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Daring Escape of the
Texas 7

The Escape

It was 11:20 a.m. when guards and supervisors returned 20 inmates that were assigned to the maintenance department to their housing areas and went to lunch, which Rivas and his cohorts had counted on. Earlier, Rivas and his gang had convinced Patrick Moczygemba, a maintenance supervisor, to allow them to remain behind to wax and seal the maintenance department's floors. That, they figured correctly, would be effective in keeping most of the other prisoners, as well as the guards, out of the area. They had also convinced Moczygemba to allow them to take their lunch in a "picnic spread" in the maintenance area and use food that they had purchased at the commissary instead of eating with the rest of the prison population in the dining area. It was a privilege afforded the best-behaved inmates, and Moczygemba had agreed to allow them this "luxury." Since it was not uncommon for this group of prisoners to be assigned special projects in the maintenance department, Moczygemba agreed to stay and watch Rivas, as well as Joseph Garcia, 29, Randy Halprin, 23, Larry Harper, 37, and Donald Newbury, 38, while the other supervisors went to lunch. Mark Burgess, another maintenance supervisor, allowed Patrick Murphy, 39, one of the inmates under his authority, to also remain in the department for lunch to assist the others in completing the project.

Michael Rodriguez mugshot
Michael Rodriguez

Yet another inmate, Michael Rodriguez, 38, who was in on the plan, had been assigned to the inside yard squad that day but due to the inclement weather Rodriguez was forced to abide by the weather related work restriction that the rest of his squad was under. However, Rodriguez had previously made an appointment to visit the law library that particular morning, which he kept. After about an hour, he checked out at 9:40 a.m., and was subsequently, albeit inadvertently, allowed through the gate at the "A" turnout area and gained access to the maintenance area where he was not supposed to be after lying to the guards that he had been assigned to pick up trash. Rodriguez spent much of the remainder of the morning sitting on a bench just outside the maintenance department, where several prison employees later recalled seeing him. No one, except for the escapees, knew that he had positioned himself as the lookout for the other six inmates while they put their plan into motion.

By 11:30 a.m. there was no turning back. Moczygemba, dressed in a gray and black flannel shirt, Wrangler blue jeans, a Ranger belt, and brown Red Wing boots, was sitting at his desk in the maintenance office when Rivas came in and got his attention.

"You're needed in the warehouse," Rivas told him.

Without questioning Rivas, Moczygemba pushed his paperwork aside and got up from his desk. When he reached the warehouse, located on the backside of the maintenance department, the other inmates were busy clearing the floor so that they could begin waxing and sealing. Nothing seemed to be amiss, and when Moczygemba asked why he was needed, Harper joined Rivas and pointed to a large motor on the floor beneath a table.

"What should we do with that motor?" Harper asked without a trace of uneasiness in his voice as he gestured toward the motor. "We need to get it off the floor."

As Moczygemba leaned down to look at the motor, one of the inmates, brandishing an axe handle, rushed over and struck him in the head.

Joseph Garcia mugshot
Joseph Garcia mugshot

Momentarily rendered unconscious, Moczygemba, dazed and blurry-eyed, began to struggle with the inmates as he regained some of his senses. Garcia, however, held a hand-made knife to the supervisor's neck.

"A few more years to our sentences don't mean anything to us," Garcia said. "We'll kill you if we need to."

Moczygemba stopped struggling, and the inmates proceeded to remove his pants and shirt. Afterward they tied his hands and legs, shoved a gag inside his mouth, and placed a pillowcase over his head. They then carried him to the electrical room at the back of the warehouse where they forced him to lie face down on the floor.

After Moczygemba had been subdued, the inmates stole his sunglasses, watch, keys, and his wallet that contained several credit cards and $30 cash. They also took two blue Texas Department of Criminal Justice coats from his office, as well as a camouflage cap and a blue ski cap. His keys permitted them access to the sensitive tools room where they stole several pairs of wire cutting pliers, two hacksaws, a bolt cutter, and a utility knife. Rodriguez, who had been standing guard outside the maintenance department, was allowed inside and became an active participant in Rivas's escape plan.

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