THE TEXAS SEVEN PRISON ESCAPE
(The Testimony of a Prison Break Witness)

CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

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 life sentences.

 

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 bars.

 

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 and rape.
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 friend’s baby

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.

 

COLD SILENCE
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.

 

OFFICERS BLAMED
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.

HOSTAGE ROUND-UP
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 and tied.

 

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 the night.

 

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.

 

VIEW PHOTOS OF TEXAS SEVEN