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Texas Escapees: Search Intensifies for Two on Loose After Arrest of Others

Aired January 23, 2001 - 1:26 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The search intensifies for two Texas convicts still on the loose after that dramatic arrest yesterday afternoon of four others who had been on the run since mid-December.

Captured in yesterday's raid on a trailer park southwest of Denver: suspected ringleader George Rivas, Randy Halprin, Michael Rodriguez and Joseph Garcia. A fifth convict killed himself when police began closing in.

Still at large: Patrick Murphy and Donald Newbury, and authorities say they're tracking down hundreds of leads, trying to find them.

CNN's Frank Buckley is closely following the search effort. He joins us now live from Denver, with the latest.

Frank, what's going on?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, we still have a developing story here, and a developing legal story now. CNN has been told that the federal proceeding that was expected to occur today is now expected not to occur. Let me back up and explain from the beginning.

It was believed this morning that here at the U.S. district courthouse that a federal magistrate would conduct a federal extradition hearing, a removal hearing for the four fugitives whose are in custody now to be removed back to Texas. Now assistant U.S. attorneys in Colorado and Texas have been engaged in conference calls, they've been consulting with the district attorney's office in Irving, Texas -- that is where the police officer was killed, and authorities believe that the fugitives killed this police officer.

Now, in consultation with the district attorney's office there, they are moving to instead of making this a federal proceeding, make a state proceeding so that the first trial that these fugitives would face would be on the state charges of killing this police officer. That has not been determined, but the federal proceeding that was expected to occur today, it appears unlikely that it will happen, according to Jeff Dorsmore (ph), a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office here in Denver.

Meanwhile, the search for the two fugitives here in Colorado continues, and investigators believe that they now have more evidence that will help them in their search for those two fugitives.


MAC STRINGFELLOW, DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: We're in much, much better position and shape now than what we were December 13th. We do have a trail now. We do have leads that we can follow up, and we're not that far behind them. They only had a few hours headstart on us. So we're in a much better position of catching the remaining two than we were five weeks ago when all seven were out.


BUCKLEY: And investigators believe that the last known vehicle that the two fugitives were traveling in was a brown or maroon-colored mid-'70s or '80s model van. It may have had white curtains and temporary license plates. They do believe these two fugitives had at least a dozen weapons between them, according to interviews that were conducted with associates with their associates, who are now in custody -- Lou.

WATERS: Are these last two considered dangerous also, Frank? We know George Rivas, the apparent ringleader of the group was known as shrewd and dangerous, but how about these last two, one a convicted rapist, one an armed robber?

BUCKLEY: Yes, and the armed robber serving a 99-year sentence, the convicted rapist serving a 50-year sentence. The belief is among federal authorities that they are very dangerous, and clearly they believe that they are armed. They also sense that it's possible that they are of the mentality that they have nothing to lose, at this point. So yes, they consider them very dangerous, and they do continue to caution the public not to approach these individuals, and if they do see them, to please just call authorities.

WATERS: All right, Frank Buckley, following along with the operation in Denver as the search continues for those two Texas escapees.

Natalie has more on all of this.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Lou, those who have been called are being held in the Teller County Jail, in Colorado.

We have with us now reporter Greg Nieto, who's in Divide, Colorado -- that's in Teller county.

What can you tell us about these men who have been captured -- Greg.


Yes, what I can tell you is the four men since they were captured yesterday have spent really the better part of past 24 hours here, directly behind me, inside the Teller county facility. Once again, we are talking about George Rivas, Randy Halprin, Michael Rodriguez and Joseph Garcia -- you heard Frank Buckley talk about some of the proceedings that are about to take place.

The sheriff up here was still expecting those to really take place at any moment here this afternoon. He had said that federal magistrate from Denver was set to come up here to a Crippled Creek courtroom, and via a video linkup, was to really advise the four of their rights. At this point, again, that still is up for debate as to whether that will happen at all up in the area that we are in.

We are really just down the road from that RV park and the Woodland Park area, where this really all began early yesterday morning with federal and local officials bringing the four into custody. The fifth gentleman, obviously, had passed away by suicide. And now, obviously, the continued search is really ongoing for the last two suspects/fugitives that are still on the loose.

Now, I had a chance to speak with the mayor of Woodland Park, and he said more than anything else, he really wanted to stress to the people of his community that he was very proud of the work they did in helping authorities capture the four -- really, the five -- that were on the loose, and he also wanted to thank law enforcement for their work, as well.

Again, we are awaiting word at this point as to whether or not that federal magistrate will make his way up here near the Cripple Creek area to advise the four of their rights. Once again, video linkup -- and if that does happen, obviously we'll come back to you with much more on that.

And once again, I want to reiterate that the crime scene, in essence, still continues down there near the RV park. The ATF is still down there collecting evidence, at this point saying they have collected some 37 weapons that the seven people from Texas really had accumulated during their travels up from Texas here into Colorado.

They say, at this point, there's still much more evidence to gather from that RV. And at this point, they're hoping to release more of that evidence as time passes on. They're actually hoping to relief that RV at some point later in the day.

We are live up here in Teller county -- Greg Nieto, for CNN -- back to you, in Atlanta.

ALLEN: And Greg, what's been the reaction from people in Woodland Park when they learned that these criminals, these dangerous criminals, were in their midst?

NIETO: You know, Natalie, that's a good question. We actually had a chance to talk to some people who came down from that RV park. You know, for the most part, people were not being let in or let out, since this really all occurred yesterday morning. We talked to a few, and really, to a person, they all said they had no idea, no inkling that these type of individuals were living amongst them.

So really, they're really kind of a -- it's kind of two-fold: They're surprised, but they're also very relieved that this was kind of resolved, at least in their area, very safely. ALLEN: And did -- we know that these men were taken without incident. Did any of them make any comments as they were taken in, that you know it of?

NIETO: Yes -- no, they did not. We talked to a member of the SWAT team as well as a member of the Colorado state patrol who were all kind there when these individuals were taken into custody, and he said, really surprisingly, really no incident to report.

ALLEN: OK, Greg Nieto, thanks so much for reporting for us.



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