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Archive for Thursday, January 25, 2001

Escapees surrender

Hotel employee turns in last two convicts from Texas prison break

January 25, 2001

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— Ending one of the nation's biggest manhunts without bloodshed, the last two escaped convicts from Texas left a hotel barechested and in handcuffs Wednesday after railing against the Texas criminal justice system in a TV interview.

Patrick Murphy Jr., 39, and Donald Newbury, 38, gave up after each was granted a five-minute telephone interview with KKTV in Colorado Springs. The surrender ended a frantic search that began exactly six weeks earlier when the pair and five others broke out of a Texas prison 800 miles away.

"They had their say by telephone and then we had them back out of the room, shirtless, hands in the air, no weapons on them," FBI agent Mark Mershon said. Inside the room, authorities said they found 10 handguns, two shotguns and ammunition.

Of the other inmates, four were arrested peacefully Monday in nearby Woodland Park and a fifth committed suicide as authorities closed in. Police said they had accounted for all 60 guns they believed the convicts had obtained since their Dec. 13 escape.

Texas authorities have said they will seek the death penalty against the men for the Christmas Eve slaying of a Dallas-area policeman during a holdup at a sporting goods store. His loaded gun was recovered from the convicts on Monday, police said.

The last two convicts had checked in Monday at the Holiday Inn, paying in cash and showing possibly false identification, hotel officials said. A suspicious employee called authorities.

Officers checking out the tip telephoned one room about 10 p.m. Tuesday and Murphy answered. "You got us. I don't know how you guys did it, but you got us," Deputy Police Chief Luis Velez quoted Murphy as saying.

Lt. Skip Arms added: "I think the officers were equally surprised when the individual said you found us."

After five hours of negotiations, the inmates gave up at 3:45 a.m.

During the interviews with a KKTV news anchorman, Newbury said the breakout was a statement against the Texas judicial system.

Authorities have said they will seek the death penalty against the six men who escaped.

"The system is as corrupt as we are. You going to do something about us, well, do something about that system, too," said Newbury, who was serving a 99-year sentence for armed robbery.

Murphy, who was serving 50 years for rape, said he was up for parole but felt he would have been given unfair parole requirements that would have landed him back in prison.

"Hopefully, like I said, this will open up some people's eyes that the penal system does have some problems with it," he said.

The seven convicts bluffed their way out of the prison in Kenedy, Tex., reportedly stealing 16 guns and ammunition. Eleven days later, authorities say, the group stole more guns and cash from an Irving, Texas, sporting goods store and killed police officer Aubrey Hawkins when he arrived.

Hawkins was shot 11 times and run over by a vehicle, heightening fears the men would not surrender peacefully.

The group arrived in Colorado during the last week in December, authorities said. They spent time in Pueblo, 100 miles south of Denver, before renting a space for a motor home in the Coachlight Motel and RV Park in Woodland Park, 20 miles from here, about Jan. 1.

The convicts led the RV park manager and neighbors to believe they were Christian missionaries. The men much hid in plain sight, frequenting a coffee shop and going to nightclubs.

"We joked about it often, but it really was just by downplaying ourselves and changing our hair color and such," Murphy said. "We attempted to be as friendly and neighborly as we could."

The other escaped convicts were captured after the owners of the Coachlight recognized their photos on the Web site of TV's "America's Most Wanted."

Authorities believe Murphy and Newbury split from the others last weekend because they wanted to obtain more money. On Tuesday, authorities found their van abandoned in a parking lot two blocks from the hotel where they were arrested.

Newbury told KKTV that the inmates tried to avoid violence throughout their 42-day escape, beginning with the breakout.

"We hurt the officers very little, only the ones that resisted. It could have been a bloodbath," he said.

In Irving, police spokesman David Tull scoffed at the men's claims: "Officer Hawkins was the victim. We buried the victim."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hawkins' mother, Jayne Hawkins, said: "Now we can get down to business and get some changes in this lousy Texas penal system. My son will not die in vain."

The inmates arrested Monday were suspected ringleader George Rivas, 30, convicted of aggravated robbery and kidnapping; Michael Rodriguez, 38, and Joseph Garcia, 29, both convicted murderers, and Randy Halprin, 23, who was serving time for beating an infant.

All four were being held at the Teller County Jail in Divide pending transfer to Texas. Murphy and Newbury made an initial court appearance Wednesday and face another hearing Monday.

FBI agent Greg Groves said authorities and residents were relieved the ordeal was over: "This whole community has just been scared to death."

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