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Breaking News

Texas Escapees: Search Intensifies for Two Convicts

Aired January 23, 2001 - 2:09 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Again, the breaking news story out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Authorities confirm they have found a van abandoned, believed used by the remaining two fugitives from the Texas prison break story.

We're going to join our affiliate KTVT out of Dallas, which is reporting there in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to see what the latest is on the story. Again, the two men still at large are Patrick Murphy Jr. and Donald Newbury.

And let's rejoin and -- let's join the affiliate and see what they're reporting.


UNIDENTIFIED KTVT-TV ANCHOR: ... late '70s, early '80s Ford Econoline van. They felt like this was what the men were driving. It had some distinctive features about it. It was brown and maroon with white curtains. They feel like they've found that. And that's where we are right now.

Let's go to CBS 11 Producer Jason Sickles, who's got more information -- Jason.

JASON SICKLES, CBS 11 PRODUCER: Hi, Renee (ph). Yes, they are -- they've got that van surrounded, as you say, right now.

The white curtains are down. And actually it's more maroon than brown than we thought.

Right now, I'm on the west side of the -- of the Comfort Inn. Jay Gormley is on the east side of the building.

I just watched that tactful team enter the west side of the building. And we're seeing ambulances pull up closer in case -- in case they are needed.

RENEE (ph): So, I know authorities, Jason, they were saying they didn't know these men were. They hadn't been seen since, I believe, 1:30 the day before yesterday.

There was some concern that maybe they were not in the area. Surprisingly, here they are, maybe, possibly. At least the van is just 25 miles away from there. It sounds like, by all the activity, that they have a pretty good indication these men might be in there. Or are they just being cautious, Jason?

(ph): Well, I think at this point, they're being cautious.

The van is actually in -- behind -- directly behind a restaurant next to the motel. They're being cautious, if possibly they could be, you know, checked in and maybe in the motel. So they are checking all four floors of that building now, room by room. They have the building evacuated, all the other -- the normal guests who are there.

You know, speculation is that maybe they dropped off the van and obviously could have stolen another vehicle so that they wouldn't be seen.

RENEE (ph): Jason (ph), we're getting live pictures now. And the white building that I see there, is that the Quality Inn? The white building, in that it looks...

SICKLES (ph): With the green trim?

RENEE (ph): Right.

SICKLES (ph): Yes, it is.

RENEE (ph): And then what's that building behind it? It looks kind of grayish. Is that also part of the motel?

SICKLES (ph): No. That's got to be another motel behind it.

RENEE (ph): OK. And the parking lot looks fairly deserted. So, are there not a lot of people there right now?

SICKLES (ph): They have evacuated the immediate area right...

ALLEN: We will continue to monitor KTVT and go back to them.

We want to talk with the eyewitness that spotted this van and alerted police. That -- he is Jim Heisman (ph).

Jim, where were you when you saw this van?

JIM HEISMAN (ph): When we arrived at work this morning, the van was parked behind our building.

ALLEN: What kind of a building? Is this a restaurant?

HEISMAN (ph): It's a restaurant. The Hungry Farmer Restaurant.

ALLEN: And how did you know that this might be the van that police were looking for?

HEISMAN (ph): Well, it's a big news item here in town. You know, it's only 45 minutes up the pass where this all came down yesterday. So a lot of people read the newspapers and got the vehicle description out of the newspaper.

ALLEN: And what were you -- did you spot it? Did somebody else spot it? Did you...

HEISMAN (ph): My first -- my first cook came in about 6:15 this morning and noticed it. And as people started arriving, the -- you know, the talk started. When we went over there to look inside the windows, we noticed some things that didn't seem right. So we called the police.

ALLEN: What did you see?

HEISMAN (ph): The keys were in the ignition. There were duffel bags, screwing around. And there was a box of men's hair coloring -- hair dye inside. And the papers have said that these guys have dyed their hair and grown some facial hair.

ALLEN: OK, we are looking at pictures of the van now. So you -- you've called the police, and they got there. And any word on whether anyone in that area saw these men near the van?

HEISMAN (ph): Not to our knowledge.

ALLEN: So it was abandoned at the point that you saw it? You never saw anyone around it?

HEISMAN (ph): Right.

ALLEN: Are you still at the restaurant there?

HEISMAN (ph): Yes.

ALLEN: What's the activity at the restaurant now? Or is the van still there?

HEISMAN (ph): The customers feel very safe. We're open for business. And there's a lot of police activity out back.

ALLEN: Yes, I'm -- I'm -- I'm sure they do, now that we can see. We're trying to get a live picture here from KMGH, of the scene there behind your restaurant.

What are the people in town feeling about this story from Texas, coming right into your town? Here's -- now, no one knows where these fugitives are.

HEISMAN (ph): Well, I haven't talked to that many people. It just happened yesterday.

ALLEN: OK, we thank you, Jim Heisman (ph).

HEISMAN (ph): You're welcome.

ALLEN: He's the one that -- he and his co-workers who spotted the van behind the restaurant.

We will rejoin our affiliate who is continuing to report from the scene.

JAY GORMLEY, REPORTER, KTVT: ... another inmate, sort of an orange-red.

They were doing everything possible to change their appearance. They were wearing preppy clothes. They tried to blend into the community. Very quiet.

We interviewed today a person, an owner of a bar, in which four of the inmates on Friday walked in and shot pool. Didn't say a word, kept to themselves, smiled, cracked jokes, talked to some of the other bar patrons.

So they were doing everything they could to blend in with this community and everything they could do to change their appearances. So when you find dye inside the car, and a duffel bag and so forth, well, it certainly leads you to believe that that may very well be the van.

RENEE (ph): OK, Jay Gormley, Jason Sickles (ph), live on the scene.

Let me just again bring our audience up to speed here. Authorities have found the van they believe was being used by two of the fugitives, two of the seven Texas prison escapees,

The men they -- authorities are looking for are Patrick Murphy Jr., 39 years old, serving 50 years for aggravated sexual assault, with a deadly weapon. He is a Dallas native. And he apparently entered the home of a 23-year-old woman that he had known since high school and sexually assaulted her.

Donald Newbury is the other one. He is 38 years old. He's serving 99 years for aggravated robbery. Robbed a woman at an Austin hotel in 1997. He was armed with a sawed-off shotgun.

Now, authorities have, all along, said these men are armed and very dangerous. When they found the five yesterday -- and you will recall they arrested four of them, George Rivas, Joseph Rodriguez, Randy Halprin, and Joseph Garcia and Michael Rodriguez. And the fifth person, Larry Harper, killed himself when he was surrounded by authorities.

But authorities in Colorado and here in Texas have, all along, said that, look, these men are armed and very dangerous. And that's why they were saying to people who thought that, if you think you spot the van, to call authorities.

And again, they gave a pretty good description of the van. And the description that they gave came from the men who were in custody yesterday. And they said it was a brown or, now we're hearing from our folks on the scene that it was more of a maroon color. It had white curtains. No latter on the back, but a spare tire. It was a conversion van, a Ford Econoline, they called it.

And so authorities found that, today. What we understand is that someone who was coming to work, a baker, I think, is what I heard, coming in at about six o'clock this morning, spotted the van, went up to it, looked inside, saw the white curtains on the floor and some hair dye and the like. And then he put two and two together, and was able to figure out and call authorities that this was the van that folks were looking for.

Jason Sickles (ph), again, anything new to add?

SICKLES (ph): No. We're still waiting for the -- again, the tactical (ph) squad that I told you about 10 minutes ago entered billing. We have not seen any -- actually, we do see some -- one man appearing up from the fourth floor. Don't know who he is. Looks like maybe he was just an employee of the motel. That's really the only movement we see at this point. We're still waiting for that tactical (ph) unit to come out.

RENEE (ph): I'm seeing, Jason, pictures of authorities looking under the hood of that van.

Do they believe that it might be -- I don't know, somehow, a booby trap or something? Is there a fear of that at all?

SICKLES (ph): Yes, that's our understanding. And obviously, those precautionary measures are always taken. They were -- they had mirrors, you know, where they extended down on polls, so that they could look down underneath. They opened up the hood of the vehicle. And now, they did all kind of step back. Unknown exactly what they are thinking at this point.

But they -- I have not seen them actually go inside and start the actual inspection inside. It's all on the outside at this point.

RENEE (ph): So, are we to believe that they will just go floor- by-floor on this? This is a four-story Quality Inn, and they are off of Highway 25. They'll just do a sweep of each floor? Knocking on doors? Is that what we assume?

SICKLES (ph): Yes, that's what -- yes, that's what seems to be going on right now.

RENEE (ph): All right.

And do you see them right now from where you are, or are they all inside?

SICKLES (ph): No. Again, we're on the outside. We assume that there are some interior hallways there.

What we are seeing is the out -- that would be the exterior windows where the guests could open up curtain. Many of those curtains are shut. There's few windows where the curtains are open. But again, seeing very, little movement, at all.

RENEE (ph): OK, again, more pictures now from this breaking news story that we're telling you about. Authorities again say that they found the van that they believe to be driven by Donald Newbury, Patrick Murphy. Those are the two of the seven prison escapees who were not accounted for.

Authorities hadn't seen them since about 1:00 or 1:30, the day before yesterday. And there were some fear that they could be quite a distance away from Woodland Park, which is where the other five were found.

But as it turns out, it looks like, anyway, that they went as far as Colorado Springs, which is where all this activity is going on right now.

And our Jason Gormley and Jason Sickles (ph) are both there on the scene.

They both report that there are a number of agencies there. ATF, we understand, just arrived. SWAT teams, as we saw pictures of them moving into the buildings now. And as we were talking with Jason Sickles (ph), we understand they'll probably conduct a floor-by-floor sweep. This is a four-story Quality Inn motel, off of Highway 25.

And from that picture that we just saw, it looks like there were quite a few cars, at least in the parking lot. And as our reporters on the scene said, they haven't really evacuated a lot of the buildings in that surrounding area, yet, anyway.

Jay Gormley, are you still with us?

GORMLEY: I still am, yes.

RENEE (ph): OK, so still not a whole lot going on? Can't see anything right now?

GORMLEY: Well, one question that remains unanswered, the reports are that they found a duffel bag inside the van. Keep in mind, that the two inmates that...

ALLEN: All right, as we continue to monitor KDTVT, they are starting to talk about the van again.

As you heard here, we talked with the man who, along with his co- workers, saw that van behind the restaurant and alerted the police, and seeing questionable objects inside the van. He described them as duffel bags and hair dye.

We heard one reporter talking about these men trying to blend into the community recently.

Let's talk with CNN's Frank Buckley who is in Colorado. He's in Denver, who can tell us about how all of this started yesterday with the arrest of four of these fugitives and what -- where they are now -- Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, those four fugitives right now are still in Colorado. Extradition proceedings will get under way at some point today. It appears as though it's going to be a state extradition proceeding, instead of federal extradition proceedings.

We should get more information on that in a news conference that will take place at three o'clock Eastern. We are expecting to hear from the FBI agent in charge and a number of other officials that will give us a better sense of exactly how the legal proceeding are going.

And we expect to also hear, according to someone at the FBI office here, more detail about the finding of this van. This van, which could prove to be crucial in giving further detail, further information to the law enforcement officials who are continuing this search.

You may have heard one of the reporters saying, as we did, that one of the witnesses who looked at the van saw inside several duffel bags, maps, men's hair coloring inside of the -- inside the van.

And we've been told by officials that these fugitives were able to disguise themselves. And one of the ways they did that was by dying their hair. Also their hair has grown out significantly since their mug shots were taken for the prison mug shots. And so their appearance did look markedly different, apparently, from their appearance in these mug shots. And so that also helped them to blend into the community.

One of the folks who live in this trailer park said that this -- at least one of the fugitives was even attending a bible study class. So they were able to somehow blend in. It's believed that they lived at this park for up to three weeks.

ALLEN: All right, thanks so much, Frank Buckley.

If we can put the pictures back up of the men that were taken into custody, Rivas was believed to be the ringleader. He was caught, also with Garcia and Rodriguez, after being pulled over by police in front of a convenient store, not far from the RV park where these men were believed to be staying.

Halprin, the second from the left there, was arrested at the RV park.

And again, another fugitive committed suicide.

So again, we have these two others, Patrick Murphy Jr. and Donald Newbury, as their van has been abandoned and police are checking a hotel right behind where this van is, looking for these men.



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