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Texas Escapees: Police Investigating Van Believed Left Behind by Prisoners

Aired January 23, 2001 - 2:29 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: One again, our attention this afternoon is focused on Colorado Springs and surrounding area where yesterday afternoon about this time four of the Texas prison escapees were captured -- one committed suicide, two others split off and attempted to beat the dragnet now closing in the on area.

They escaped in a van which has now been discovered behind a restaurant and near a Quality Inn motel, which is now being searched by police officers as they presume they are hot on the trail of the two remaining escapees -- one a convicted rapist, one a convicted armed robber, both considered armed and extremely dangerous.

In the meantime, we have -- we're watching pictures here from our affiliate station as they go over the van behind that restaurant and continue their search of the area.

Frank Buckley, CNN correspondent, is in Denver closely watching all aspects of the story, including the men who are again locked up.

Do we know, Frank, what's going to happen with these men -- where they will be arraigned, for instance?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's believed that what will happen next is an extradition hearing. At one point today, it was believed that it was going to be a federal hearing. Now authorities are saying that they're probably going to make it a state hearing so that the fugitives who are custody will, in fact, face as their first trial the trial on the murder of the police officer in Irving, Texas.

We should say about this search that's going on around the van that authorities believed very early on that they would in fact come across this van eventually and that it was quite possible that the two fugitives who are still outstanding would not with the van. They note that these fugitives have been very savvy in terms of what's been happening, and they believe that as soon as they were on to the fact that people were looking for this van, that they would immediately abandon the van -- so it's no surprise that they -- if they are not found immediately here in the vicinity of this van that is the case.

We -- could tell you little bit about the two fugitives who are still outstanding, Patrick Henry Murphy, Jr and Donald Keith Newbury. Patrick Henry Murphy was eligible for parole in less than a year when this breakout occurred. He was being held on a 50-year sentence for aggravated sexual assault with deadly weapon and burglary. His half sister was among those family members who made a public appeal for him to give himself up.

Donald Newbury was considered likable by some people. They said that yes, he was a career criminal, and he had in fact been involved in a number of crimes, with a rap sheet dating back to early '80s, but he was a person who had actually helped to raise the stepchildren of a woman -- he had tried to dissuade from becoming involved in crime. He was someone who didn't use drugs or drink or smoke and had talked about how his life of crime was not a good one and that he was involved in these robberies that he liked to commit for the adrenaline rush that he got out of it.

Because of number of crimes that he was involved in, he was sentenced as a habitual offender sentenced to 99 years. But we should say that his parole officer testified on his behalf during his sentencing.

So that is Newbury and the other person is Murphy. Those are the two people who are being sought -- Lou.

WATERS: Frank, do we have any reason to believe since we've -- from authorities that Rivas and one of the others, I believe, changed their appearance -- they dyed their hair blond -- that these pictures we're putting up of Murphy and Newbury are an accurate description of what folks should be on the lookout for?

BUCKLEY: We don't know for sure exactly what they look like, obviously, but we do know that those who have been captured did, in fact, change their appearances. Their hair grew out, they used hair coloring to dye their hair. One of them is described as his hair being almost orange. And so it's likely that these two fugitives did the same thing as they attempted to blend in, which they were quite successful in doing over the course of nearly six weeks of being on the run. And so far as we know, these two continue to be on the run.

WATERS: Do you we have -- do you have any indication that the four men who are back in police custody are assisting authorities in any way because of the severity of the possible charges of capital murder, assisting in any way in helping authorities find these two remaining fugitives?

BUCKLEY: Well, the FBI agent in charge here in Denver told me that they are receiving what he called limited cooperation. But they are cooperating, nonetheless. They are not simply refusing to speak. Apparently, some of them or perhaps all of them are giving bits of information, one of important pieces of information, for example, that they received was that these two had at least between them a dozen weapons between them, loaded and ready for battle, as the FBI agent told me today.

So it's believed that they are giving some cooperation. It's believed that Rivas told police in Texas, police in Texas report this anyway, that Rivas admitted to shooting the police officer in Irving, Texas. So they are apparently discussing some aspects of their escape and what they've been doing for the past several weeks with authorities.

WATERS: OK, Frank, we'll check back. Correspondent Frank Buckley, in Denver today, on the captured fugitives and also on the ones still being hunted for in the Colorado Springs area.

We have a recent statement by Lieutenant Skip Arms of the Colorado State Patrol -- let's listen to what he has to say about the search now going on.


LIEUTENANT SKIP ARMS, COLORADO STATE PATROL: Well, as we reported earlier, they're relatively certain that this is the van that was used by the fugitives. We believe the van's been here since about 6:00 this morning. We have obtained, or in the process of obtaining, a search warrant to search van to possibly provide additional information in this case.

We can't confirm whether or not the fugitives are still in this area; however, we are following up on information that we've received and are checking in to some of the hotels here.

QUESTION: If they are in area, which hotel do you think they'd be in -- what hotel...

ARMS: Well, I can't say specifically. There's a couple of possibilities that they're looking into.

QUESTION: What have you seen in the van so far?

ARMS: I can't comment on what's inside the van.

QUESTION: Is there's a chance they maybe just dropped the van off and left the area.

ARMS: That certainly could be possible. We are checking into the possibility of any other stolen vehicles for this area. Because of the proximity to the interstate, it's just as likely too that did drop the vehicle off and left the area on the interstate.

QUESTION: Have you had any sightings of these two men in the area?

ARMS: I'm not sure what information specifically they've had in terms of sightings yet.

QUESTION: And how certain are you this is the van.

ARMS: I'm telling you what they've told me -- that they're relatively certain it is the van.

QUESTION: When did you first get the call?

ARMS: I'm not sure what time our department actually got the call. I had been made aware of this probably about hour, 1 1/2 hours ago myself, but I think they had already received some information by that point.

QUESTION: Was this van here overnight?

ARMS: We don't know -- our information is that it's been here since about 6:00 a.m.

QUESTION: And do the license plates on the van match the -- the van itself?

ARMS: No, they're from another vehicle. They don't match up to this van.

QUESTION: OK, the latest on the investigation is?

ARMS: We're searching and we're waiting for the warrant.


WATERS: And there you have the latest from Lieutenant Skip Arms of the Colorado State Patrol.

You'll note there that there is a considerable lapse -- or an apparent considerable lapse -- between the time that the van was discovered parked behind that restaurant, about 6:00 a.m. and the time the police got on the case. When they received the call -- Lieutenant Arms was not too certain about that, but he only got the call about 1 1/2 hours ago.

So apparently, while the search continues, there are considerable possibilities open to authorities who are after these two men still on the loose, one of which being, since it's so near an interstate, they could be on their way out of town already.

But we are continuing to closely follow the story. As soon as there's a new development, we'll pass it along right way.



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