The Daring Escape of the
With three down and four to go, the cops knew they still had their work cut out for them. They didn't know where the brown Ford van was or who was driving it, and they didn't know which, if any, of the seven were still at the RV park.
That status changed rapidly, however, when the local police intercepted a cellular phone call shortly after Rivas, Rodriguez, and Garcia were arrested and roadblocks had been set up along the highway near the RV park in an attempt to identify the remaining fugitives in the event they were trying to make a break for it in yet another vehicle. The call was clearly a tip off, a warning to one or more of the remaining fugitives.
The caller said: "They're searching cars, and they might be on to you."
At that point the police did not know who the call had been placed to, or by whom. Although attempts were made to identify the caller and their location, the effort failed because of the large number of motorists that had been stopped as a result of the roadblock and the fact that so many of them were using their cellular phones at the time. They were reasonably certain, however, that the call had come from a car near the roadblock.
Nonetheless, the cops surrounded the Pace-Arrow RV and ordered its occupants to surrender and come out peacefully. After a few moments, Randy Halprin, wounded after being shot in the foot during the shootout outside Oshman's in Irving, Texas, limped out with his hands in the air. Halprin was promptly taken into custody, and the police determined that Larry Harper, suicidal and wanting to speak to his father, remained inside, alone. However, although the police had decided to allow Harper to speak to his father, Harper shot and killed himself without ever doing so.
As they wrapped up the case, the investigators received a tip on Tuesday morning, January 23, 2001 that the brown Ford van had been spotted outside a restaurant across the street from a Holiday Inn in Colorado Springs. After converging on the area, the cops determined that Patrick Murphy, Jr. and Donald Newbury were holed up in a room at the Holiday Inn. After setting up a team of negotiators at the hotel, Murphy and Newbury agreed to give themselves up if allowed to provide a statement to a reporter on KKTV in a live broadcast. Their request was granted, and their statement consisted mostly of complaints about the Texas prison system.
Each of the remaining members of the Texas 7 were charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Officer Aubrey Hawkins, and each was systematically returned to Texas to face separate trials.
Although the police were satisfied that they had done their job by completing their mission by getting the remaining six of the Texas 7 fugitives back behind bars where they belonged, they also knew that their work was not over yet. They still had to resolve the issue of whether the escapees had outside help. Everyone associated with the case believed that they did receive some kind of assistance, but what and by whom?
That mystery was solved a little more than a week later. The Suburban that they had been driving was traced back to a couple in San Antonio who explained to the investigators that they had sold the vehicle to a woman named Patsy Gomez, 41, on December 11, 2000, two days before the Connally Unit breakout.
Soon after her name had surfaced, investigators searched a number of sources of public records for a Patsy Gomez. As it turned out, they found a record that showed that she had purchased another vehicle ten years earlier with another manRaul Rodriguezwho had co-signed the car loan with her. They had finally found the link that they had been looking for to connect one of the relatives of the Texas 7 to aiding the inmates in the breakout. Rodriguez had, after all, visited his son, Michael, at the prison in the days preceding the breakout.
When confronted with the fact that her name had been linked to Raul Rodriguez, Gomez agreed to cooperate. She also implicated Rodriguez, a former employer and a long-time family friend, according to the police.
The investigators subsequently learned that, after allegedly conspiring with his son in prison, Raul Rodriguez had asked Gomez to help him. Investigators believe that he gave Gomez $3,700 in cash to buy the Suburban that he had found for sale through a classified ad. According to the investigators, Gomez purchased the vehicle and drove it to the Wal-Mart parking lot, accompanied by a male friend, a man whom authorities didn't identify, who followed her in another vehicle. Once there, investigators said, Gomez placed the Suburban's title and $300 cash beneath a rug in the vehicle, and left its keys in the tailpipe.
The investigators arrested Gomez and took her to jail, charging her with seven felony counts of permitting or facilitating the escape. Afterwards, they arrested Rodriguez at his home under identical charges. Both were taken to the Karnes County Jail.
At their arraignment, both handcuffed and shackled with chains, Gomez and Rodriguez were informed of the charges facing them and held on $700,000 bail each, $100,000 for each of the seven counts. If convicted, each faced a possible 20-year prison sentence.
George Rivas was the first of the remaining six of the Texas 7 to go to trial on a variety of charges stemming from the prison breakout, including capital murder for the shooting death of Officer Aubrey Hawkins. Following a week-long trial in which Rivas stated that he deserved to die for Hawkins' death, a jury convicted him on the capital murder charges on August 21, 2001. After additional deliberations they agreed with Rivas and sentenced him to death.
Although additional trials are forthcoming for the captured fugitives, as well as adjudication of the cases against Raul Rodriguez and Patsy Gomez, we must remember that under the protections of the U.S. Constitution, Larry Halprin, Donald Newbury, Patrick Murphy, Jr., Michael Rodriguez, and Joseph Garcia, regardless of the past crimes for which they have been convicted, must be presumed innocent of the charges now facing them unless or until they are convicted in a court of law. The same Constitutional protections, of course, apply to Patsy Gomez and Raul Rodriguez.