Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Daring Escape of the
Texas 7

Without A Hitch

Although Rivas and his gang had only been at it for an hour and 55 minutes, the passage of time as they made their bid for freedom seemed like eternity for the escapees and captives alike. But Rivas was confident that they were going to make it. His plan, so far, had gone off without a hitch. As Rivas was getting ready to put the next phase of his plot into action, however, there was substantial noise coming from behind the electrical room door where he and the others had placed their captives.

Unknown to Rivas and his cohorts, maintenance supervisor Schmidt had been able to free himself from his restraints and had begun helping the others free themselves. Garza had been carrying a pocketknife that the convicts had not found when they took him captive, and Schmidt had been able to use the knife to cut the duct tape and plastic ties from his colleagues' arms and legs. The only person he was unable to set free was officer Albert, who had been handcuffed.

The captives began feverishly tearing the electrical conduit from the walls to prepare for the possibility that their assailants might return. They used the conduit to barricade the door from the inside, and decided that it could also be used as a weapon to defend themselves if the inmates did, in fact, decide to come back.

It was soon apparent to the escapees that their captives had managed to get out of their restraints. One of the inmates attempted to enter the electrical room but found that the door, which opened into the room and not outward, had been barricaded from the inside. Realizing that for their escape to be successful, they had to make certain that their captives could not get out of the electrical room. Thinking quickly, Rivas and one of the other convicts secured a cable to the door and used a winch, also referred to as a come-a-long, to keep it closed.

Afterward, Rivas, impersonating a supervisor, telephoned the A-turnout officer, the number 3 building desk officer, and the 18-19-turnout officer and informed each that only a skeleton crew of prisoners would return to their job assignments after lunch was finished. He reasoned that by making such a phone call it would lessen scrutiny on the maintenance department and decrease their chances of being found out before making their final break for freedom.

At 1:05 p.m. a correctional officer assigned to the prison's central control area telephoned the maintenance department and asked to speak with a supervisor. It was time for one of the dozen daily head counts. Rivas answered the call, and instructed one of the other inmates to come to the phone to impersonate Patrick Moczygemba. The central control officer advised the man he thought was Patrick Moczygemba that it was time to call the lieutenant for the count. When the inmate placed the call, he was careful to include the three inmates who had been subdued with the prison employees as well as Rodriguez, who did not work in the maintenance department with Rivas and the other five, to ensure that the head count would balance. Somehow Rivas and his fellow escapees managed to remain calm and unruffled.

At 1:15 p.m. correctional officer Lou Gips, assigned to the back gate picket and radio tower, received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a supervisor in the maintenance department. The back gate picket is a narrow fenced area reinforced with razor wire that leads to the back gate and the outside perimeter road. Gips was informed by the caller that maintenance employees would be entering the area to install monitors in the picket zone. The telephone call, as well as the description of the work order, seemed legitimate to Gips because he recalled that similar work had been recently performed at one of the other picket zones in a different area of the prison. As a result, Gips had no reason to question the work order.

Meanwhile, the three inmates who had remained behind in the maintenance area took care of business at their end, under Rivas's instructions. Rodriguez had remained outside as a lookout, while one of the other prisoners had made the necessary telephone calls to the other prison areas. Rivas, earlier, had worked feverishly building a plywood and cardboard shelter in the back of the truck, which had been brought into the compound earlier in the day in anticipation of making a trip into town in the afternoon for supplies. The shelter would be used for his accomplices, particularly those dressed in prison whites, to hide in during the trip out of the gate and into town.

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