THE TEXAS SEVEN PRISON ESCAPE
(The Testimony of a Prison Break Witness)
A CONCRETE JUNGLE
I am a former TDCJ prison inmate who spent 9 years at the John B.
Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas. While doing time at Connally Unit
I witnessed several violent assaults and a total of 2 of the dozens
of prison murders at this "concrete jungle" of about 2500
inmates, most of them who were incarcerated for violent crimes. I
was assigned to the the units 18 and 19 dorms, a place of prison trusties,
mellow convicts and easy going Correctional Officers. It was also
the home to Jorge Rivas, a convicted armed robber serving 16 consecutive
TDCJ OFFENDER JORGE RIVAS
Jorge Rivas was from El Paso Texas, the same borderland
city I was born and raised in. That was about all we had in common.
He was a drifter who liked to pose as a Christian and I was a short-fuse
who liked to exercise in the yard alone. Every now and then he'd stop
by the weight bench where we'd reminisce about the lives we left behind
in El Paso. He liked to boast about his days as a robber and told
me he loved the smell of money. He also did mention that he could
no longer take the pressures of prison and didn't want to die behind
RIVAS’ ESCAPE PLAN
Rivas chose to confide in me about his escape plan,
not because he liked me or that we had grown up in the same lower
valley neighborhood, but because he needed another pair of hands in
order for his plan to work.
Riva’s plan was to over power the units 2 unarmed maintenance supervisors
and take their clothing, keys, truck and radios.
A large 4 by 8 foot sheet of ply wood would be painted
white, the same color as the TDCJ Maintenance truck and would be used
to hide escapees lying underneath it on the trucks bed. With the sheet
of white ply wood over their bodies, the bed of the truck would appear
empty to the armed officer up in the guard tower.
Rivas would dressed in the civilian clothing taken from maintenance
supervisors, fool the officer on the tower to open the gate and then
overpower him and exit the prison and use the truck to get away.
The plan sounded good, as does a lot of prison talk, but I really
didn’t think he’d be able to pull it off. I couldn’t help but doubt
Jorge Rivas as I listened to him discuss his plan to escape from the
maximum security J.B. Connally Unit.
FRENCH FOREIGN ALLEGIANCE
I just quit listening to Rivas when he pointed-out his plan to leave
the United States through the Canadian border then travel by boat
to France where he would enlist in the French Foreign Allegiance.
He clained that the F.F.A did not conduct any background checks on
their new recruits. All that was required was a fitness exam and the
nerve to slaughter indigenous warlords in Africa’s French colonies.
DAY OF ESCAPE
It was after a standard 3:00 P.M. head count when the unit’s correctional
staff realized that 7 inmates were missing. Officers scoured the whole
unit and were shocked to find both maintenance supervisors and one
correctional officer bound in rope and nearly nude. The gang had fortunately
spared the lives of their victims but had left on maintenance supervisor
with a gash on his forehead. Confident that the offenders were still
somewhere inside the prisons escape proof vicinity; correctional officers
searched every inmate cell, roof, and corner. No where inside the
prison were the 7 missing inmates to be found. On a whim, officials
decided to check the tower and were dismayed to find the posts assigned
officer also tied and gagged. It was there that officials had finally
realized that indeed 7 dangerous offenders had escaped from one of
the states most secure prison.
SEVEN OFFENDERS IDENTIFIED
I listened to exclusive news reports later that evening. The 7 escaped
inmates had been identified as:
George Rivas, 30 – career criminal serving 18 life terms for aggravated
robbery and kidnapping.
Donald Keith Newbury, 38- serving a life sentence for 85 armed robberies
Patrick Henry Murphy Jr., 39 – seasoned con serving 50 years for robbery
Larry James Harper, 37 - ex military soldier serving a 50 year sentence
for raping 3 women.
Michael Anthony Rodriguez, 38 – serving a life sentence for hiring
a hit-man to of his wife.
Joseph C. Garcia, 29 - serving a 50 year sentence for stabbing and
killing a friend in a drunken rage.
Randy Ethan Halprin, 23 – serving 30 years for savagely beating a
DAY AFTER ESCAPE
Prison units across Texas were placed on lock-down immediately after
the escape. I was finding it hard to believe that Rivas plan escape
had worked. Inmates all around could be heard cheering as they listened
to the news of the escape on their AM/FM radios. Reports concluded
that the Connally escapees had driven the TDCJ maintenance truck to
a shopping mall where escapee Michael Anthony Rodriguez’s own father
had left his son a get-away vehicle (Chevy suburban SUV) in the parking
lot. The gang switched vehicles, abandoning the TDCJ truck and headed
to Houston where they robbed a fireworks stand. As I listened to these
reports on my radio, I could over hear several convicts criticize
the escapees for not heading south into Mexico. It was then that I
had remembered Rivas mentioning Canada and the Foreign French Allegiance.
The unit had already been on lock-down for 3 days and correctional
officers were not releasing any details to either inmates or the press.
The cold facts were being kept secret by unit officials who I’m now
sure must have been disgusted by their own negligence. One correctional
officer had already been fired for carelessness on the job and more
heads were bound to roll. It didn’t take long before correctional
officers began informing inmates about the unfortunate truth.
Details about the audacious prison escape didn’t surface until a week
later when correctional officers began giving each other up. The signed
statements of several correctional officers working on the day of
the escape revealed that the escape had happened due to sore negligence.
LUNCH IN THE MAINTENANCE SHOP
George Rivas, Michael Rodriguez, Patrick Murphy, Randy Halprin, Larry
Harper, Donald Newbury and Joseph Garcia had somehow convinced maintenance
supervisor Patrick Moczygemba in allowing them permission to eat lunch
in the maintenance area near his small office. As far as Moczygemba
was concerned, the inmates didn’t pose a threat and had in fact allowed
them to eat lunch in the maintenance building a couple times before.
That decision proved to be the worse mistake Moczygemba had ever made
in his life. Moczygemba never saw inmate Patrick Henry Murphy Jr.
swing the axe handle that came crashing over his head.
With Moczygemba knocked out cold, the inmates were able to strip him
of his cloths and steal his unit master key collection which included
the keys of a TDCJ maintenance truck. Armed with deadly make-shift
knifes and an axe handle, the violent offenders then waited patently
as unwary staff employees came back from lunch one at a time. Like
inconspicuous jackals, the prison offenders were able to subdue 9
additional prison employees including 2 fellow inmates they feared
might snitch. One by one, the unit’s employee’s: Alan Camber, Manuel
Segura, Alejandro Marroquin, Terry Schmidt, Randy Albert, Mark Garza,
Martin Gilley, Ronny Haun and Mark Burgess were all lynched, gagged
THE CLEAN EXIT
The scheming inmates then grabbed a large sheet of plywood, painted
it the same appliance white color of the truck and fitted it onto
the bed of the pick-up truck. The idea was to cloak the inmates lying
face down on trucks bed and make it appear the bed was empty to officers
stationed in the units south gate tower. Disguised in their hostages
clothing, the offenders drove the truck and 1 utility cart to the
prisons main entrance tower and informed correctional officer Lou
Gips, who happened to be stationed the tower, that they were needed
to get into the tower for a maintenance check-up. Believing that the
“maintenance squad” was authorized, Gips opened the towers and was
then quickly jumped by the offenders. The offenders then collected
dozens of loaded fire arms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition before
using the towers control panel to open the exit passage razor wire
gates. The 7 dangerously armed offenders then drove away smoothly
in the prison maintenance truck.
JUST 15 MINUTES AWAY
Just 15 minutes away, the Texas Seven abandoned the stolen TDCJ truck
in a shopping mall parking lot and hopped into a Chevy Suburban left
there by Michael Anthony Rodriguez’s own father. The convicts drove
60 miles north to San Antonio then 200 miles east to Houston where
they hid in a cheap motel.
11 DAYS AFTER – CHRISTMAS EVE
The gang arrived at an Oshman’s sporting goods store in Irvine, Texas
11 days after their escape. Patrick Henry Murphy stayed in the SUV
to watch out for police and listen in on a police scanner while the
6 other armed convicts entered the store. Dressed in security guard
uniforms they had purchased a day earlier, offender Rivas approached
the stores manager Wesley Ferris and presented himself as an employee
for the same security company hired to deter theft at the store. Rivas
asked Ferris to call all of his employees so they could listen to
a presentation on anti-theft tactics. Soon after they all arrived,
the gang pulled out their guns and ordered Ferris and his employees
to strip out of their cloths. The bandits then exchanged cloths, posing
as Oshman employees and ransacked the store of it guns and ammunition.
TROUBLE IN THE PARKING LOT
As the stores manager, Wesley Ferris handed Rivas the money in the
stores safe, the girl friend of one of the employees came knocking
on the stores door. One of the convicts opened the door and explained
to her that the store was closed. The woman became
suspicious since she personally knew all of the store employees. She
returned to her car and immediately called police.
THE RUTHLESS MURDER OF A POLICE OFFICER
Patrick Henry Murphy used his radio to alert his fellow escapees that
police had just been dispatched so the gang rushed out. Officer Audrey
Hawkins pulled up right up on the offenders as they were loading up
their SUV and was quickly surrounded by the gang. He tried to surrender
but the fugitives proceeded to pump his body with bullets. Rivas pulled
the officers body out of the patrol car and shot him 6 more times.
The vicious offenders then jumped into the Suburban and escaped into
IRVINE, TX POLICE OFFICER GUNNED DOWN
I awoke in the morning, prepared a cup of coffee and immediately tuned
into AM radio news in hopes of receiving an update about the 7 escapees.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that police suspected that
the Connally escapees had robbed an Oshmans sporting goods store in
Irvine, TX and then gunned down a 29 year old Irvin police officer
named Aubrey Hawkins who rushed to the scene. The murder of Hawkins
had caused a media uproar and law enforcement agencies nationwide
had one objective and that was to catch the escapees dead or alive.
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
After the murder of Officer Audrey Hawkins, the “Connally Seven” were
no longer just a “Texas Thang”, but a federal one. The escaped killers
had delivered a low blow to every peace officer in the nation causing
law enforcement agencies across America to unite and form a national
interdepartmental task force. Photos of the escaped convicts were
now being broadcasted on every TV channel, radio station and newspaper
in the United States, Canada and Mexico. I knew it was just a matter
of time that the Texas 7 would be caught.
WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN
It didn’t take long before I began sensing the anger and resentment
of correctional officers in the Connally Unit. Many good officers,
who I had once enjoyed talking to, now gave me and every inmate the
cold shoulder. The tension had finally reached it’s boiling point
one afternoon when officers came barging in to the cell block wearing
helmets, black military-like fatigues and steel toe combat boots.
They declare a shakedown and ordered every inmate, including myself
to strip out of out cloths. After inspecting our oral and anal cavities,
they proceeded to enter each inmate’s cell and search for contraband.
Personal possessions such as letters and family photographs were scattered
all over the floor and trampled on by the angry officers. Inmates
who protested were immediately tackled and pepper sprayed in their
eyes and mouth. I chose to remain silent and follow the officer’s
orders. The way I figured, it was the ruthless act of George Rivas
and his clique of escapees who had caused this brutal outcome. The
hell they had put TDCJ through had ultimately returned to bite every
Texas prisoner in the ass.
“CONNALLY SEVEN” – “KENEDY SEVEN” – “TEXAS SEVEN”
Please bare this peculiar fact in mind. Rivas and his gang of escapees
were first labeled by the local media as the “Connally Seven” following
their prison escape. Then it’s reported that the gang is suspected
of robbing the fireworks stand near Houston, TX so the state media
tags the escapees as the “Kenedy Seven”. Soon after police confirmed
that the escapees had indeed murdered Officer Aubrey Hawkins in Irvine,
TX, the national media branded the gang as the “Texas Seven”. The
TEXAS SEVEN would proceed to make top headlines in newspapers and
News Channels all over the world.
THE END OF TEXAS SEVEN
The Connally Unit had been on lock-down for over a month the day I
received word on my AM/FM radio that the Texas Seven had finally been
apprehended in Colorado.
News reports stated that 6 of the condemned escapees had surrendered
peacefully, while one convict, Larry James Harper had taken his own
life. I listened as disappointed prisoners all around me cussed and
criticized the escaped cons for not putting up a bloody fight. I felt
a sense of relief and hoped that correctional officers at the Connally
Unit would feel justice was served and finally live and let live.
PHOTOS OF TEXAS SEVEN