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Captured convicts appear before judge; advised of rights and pending extradition
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CNN) -- After a six-hour standoff and airing their complaints about the criminal justice system on television, the final two of seven Texas fugitives who escaped from a maximum-security prison six weeks ago surrendered peacefully to authorities early Wednesday.
Their arrest brought an end to an intensive, national manhunt that had gripped the law enforcement community after an Irving, Texas police officer was slain Christmas Eve, a crime authorities pin on the escapees.
"I feel elated, most grateful that no one else was hurt," said Jayne Hawkins, the mother of the slain officer.
Before daylight Wednesday, the fugitives -- Patrick Murphy Jr., 39, a convicted rapist, and Donald Newbury, 38, convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon -- asked to speak to CNN-affiliate KKTV anchor Eric Singer via telephone.
The two men complained about Texas prisons and then surrendered to police, leaving the Holiday Inn they had been hold up in -- two blocks from where their abandoned van was discovered Tuesday.
Wednesday afternoon, they appeared one-by-one before an El Paso County judge at the local jail and were advised of their rights and the fact that they faced extradition to Texas -- where they could face the death penalty. They were denied bond.
Four of their cohorts -- reputed ringleader George Rivas, 30, Joseph Garcia, 29, Michael Rodriguez, 38, and Randy Halprin, 23 -- were captured Monday and are being held in nearby Teller County, where they had an advisement hearing Tuesday. One fugitive, Larry Harper, 37, committed suicide Monday to avoid capture, authorities said.
Rodriguez and Rivas are scheduled to appear in court for individual hearings Thursday. Halprin and Garcia will have their hearings Friday, a court clerk said.
Murphy and Newbury are next scheduled to appear in court Monday morning.
The seven men escaped from the Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas December 13. They had been serving time for a variety of crimes, including murder, rape, child abuse and kidnapping.
They are suspected in the December 24 fatal shooting of Officer Aubrey Hawkins during the robbery of a sporting goods store in Irving, where a federal agent said they grabbed $30,000 to $40,000 in cash and an arsenal of weapons. Police said they also took some weapons when they escaped from prison. Police said the weapons have been recovered.
"Rivas has given statements, admitting to his role in the shooting of Officer Hawkins," said Irving Police spokesman David Tull.
Irving Police Chief Lowell Cannaday said everyone at the department is excited that the men were captured. "It's a bit of a bittersweet sort of a victory here because we still have an officer that we've lost," he said.
Newbury and Murphy portrayed themselves as victims of Texas' criminal justice system.
"Our judicial system in the state of Texas has really gone to the pits," said Newbury.
Murphy agreed. "Hopefully, maybe this will open the eyes of some people that the penal system does have some problems," he said, adding that Colorado was just "a random pick" as the seven drove for hours out of Texas in a snow storm.
Murphy said the group first went to Pueblo and then to Woodland Park where they hid out in an RV park. He said the group tried to blend in to the local community.
"We joked about it often. It was just by downplaying ourselves and changing our hair color and such," said Murphy, adding that the group attempted to be friendly. He said Harper went to church meetings and wanted to convince local residents the seven were members of a traveling church crew.
But a Woodland Park resident who attended Bible study class with Harper said the escaped convict appeared to be sincere.
"He was reaching for something," Panzy Giles told CNN. "I know he was a front for them in this area, but he dropped a lot of his formalism and became a real person around us."
Brian Rackham, the news director of KKTV, defended the station's decision to give air time to the two convicts.
"This was an incredible news story," he said. "We were very straight forward with our audience on exactly what they were going to see, and I think we fulfilled our mission as journalists, and I think we also helped bring about a peaceful end to this situation."
The manhunt for the remaining two fugitives had intensified Tuesday when police recovered a van they had been using. Police said a tip led them to the hotel.
FBI agents said after the two surrendered, officers found 10 handguns and two shotguns in the room.
"They were ready for action," said Mark Mershon, the FBI special agent in charge in Colorado.
In addition, Tom Mangan, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the revolver belonging to the slain police officer was found in a Jeep Cherokee used by the four men who were captured Monday.
Final two Texas fugitives make first court appearance
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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