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Burden of Proof

Texas Manhunt: Two Prison Escapees Still on the Lam

Aired January 23, 2001 - 12:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF, four were recaptured yesterday and another committed suicide. But two prison escapees from Texas are still on the lam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN DOUGHERTY, SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, TELLER COUNTY, COLORADO: We have four male subjects in custody whom we believe to be four of the Texas escapees. They were arrested out of the -- from the Coachlight Motel area south of Woodland Park.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID TULL, IRVING POLICE: Apparently, the two fugitives we are still looking for left the location of this -- the trailer park, the mobile home community area shortly after one o'clock, or around one o'clock yesterday afternoon. So they've -- they've had quite some time to be on the road.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF, with Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF. Greta is off today.

For five of the "Texas Seven," their life on the run came to an end late yesterday. Four of the prison escapees were recaptured in Woodland Park, Colorado.

Back in custody: suspect -- suspected ringleader, George Rivas, Joseph Garcia, Randy Halprin, and Michael Rodriguez. A fifth fugitive, Larry Harper, barricaded himself in a motor home. Authorities say he committed suicide before they could enter.

That leaves two of the escapees still on the run. Patrick Murphy Jr. and Donald Newbury are considered armed and dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF JOHN ANDERSON, EL PASO COUNTY, COLORADO: The two suspects that we are looking for, we believe to be occupying a vehicle. We are certain that it is a van, possibly a Ford. We think that it has been customized, or given some type of an option that is not a standard package. It's be -- it's been described by some people as dark brown, others say burgundy. And we think that it possibly may have a temporary license plate on the back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Joining us today from Houston, Texas, is former FBI Special Agent Don Clark. And joining us here in Washington, Holiday Johnson (ph), former FBI Special Agent Clint Van Zandt, and Lauren McCombs (ph). In the back, Chris Kenny (ph) and Marino Durham (ph). And joining us from Denver is CNN correspondent Frank Buckley.

Well, Frank, you are in front of the U.S. courthouse in Denver. Tell us what's going on out there today.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Roger, we are here because we were expecting a removal hearing, a federal extradition hearing to take place here at the U.S. district courthouse, to get those four fugitives who are in custody extradited back to Texas, which is what the authorities would like to see happen as quickly as possible.

Instead, however, the officials have decided to move that hearing to Teller County, which is about 50 miles away. They've decided to move that hearing.

The primary reason, we are told, is for security reasons. They don't want to have to move those fugitives if they don't have to. They're actually having a federal magistrate drive up to Teller County to conduct this hearing.

COSSACK: Frank, when do we expect that this removal hearing will take place?

BUCKLEY: It may already be under way, Roger. It's expected to occur this morning. We know that the federal magistrate was on his way this morning to go. So it could be under way at any moment. It may already be under way.

COSSACK: Well, Frank, just for our viewers, a federal removal hearing is, of course, where they identify the suspects, and identify them under the warrant, that federal fugitive warrant that is out for them.

Do you have any idea when, when and if they go through this hearing, they will be removed back to Texas?

BUCKLEY: Well, they are being looking at two possible ways -- according to the FBI agent in charge, they're -- they're looking at a possible, unlawful flight, or going after the fugitives on an ATF warrant from northern Texas.

Once they decide which way to go, they say that the removal of these fugitives from Colorado to Texas could occur as early as today, perhaps a little bit later, depending on the security arrangements that would have to be made, and also whether or not the fugitives would want to fight those proceedings. They may want to stay in Colorado for whatever reason. And so it could take a little bit longer. But it could happen as early as today.

COSSACK: All right, thanks, Frank Buckley, from -- in front of the U.S. courthouse in Denver, Colorado.

Joining us now is Commander Terry Maketa from the El Paso SWAT team.

Commander Maketa, you were present when the three fugitives were arrested and apprehended in that van yesterday. Tell us how that happened.

CMDR. TERRY MAKETA, EL PASO CO. SWAT TEAM: Well, basically, the suspects were driving a late-model Jeep Cherokee. After originally traveling west, they turned and headed east on Highway 24. Our SWAT team had divided itself into two mobile take-down units. The first unit got tied up when they went west. As they came east, our second unit pursued them, and ended up basically taking them down in the parking lot of a convenience store.

COSSACK: Well, Commander Maketa, you had this set up, so, though, no matter which way they went, you would be prepared for them. Right?

MAKETA: Oh, absolutely.

COSSACK: All right, now, when did your surveillance of them in the -- in the vehicle -- excuse me -- that RV begin? What time did you begin to surveil the scene?

MAKETA: We were actually getting information for our SWAT team in from various sources, including Teller County, the federal agencies, marshal's office, FBI, that was being fed to our command post, with who we have communications with. And so the information was coming through our command post from several different people. And it was -- it was good information.

We were notified immediately when they began traveling east. And we were able to put together a plan of how we wanted to conduct the take-down.

COSSACK: Now, was it now your plan to wait for them to leave the RV? Or were you going to ever go to the RV and try to take them out of there, if you had to?

MAKETA: No. We had -- responsibilities had been divided up between our SWAT team, the Teller County SWAT team, and the FBI SWAT team. So we were each assigned certain areas.

And ours was primarily a perimeter responsibility or a mobile. If the suspects went mobile in a vehicle, then our team would take them down. That was something that we had trained in, and we were -- we felt we were very confident in. COSSACK: And you obviously are.

Now, Commander, how many members are there of your SWAT team?

MAKETA: We have a 17-member team.

COSSACK: And was that the number of gun that were there...

MAKETA: No...

COSSACK: ... for the arrest yesterday?

MAKETA: No. We had 14 present yesterday, not counting...

COSSACK: And can you tell us what your SWAT team was armed with and ready to defend -- to defend yourselves, if necessary?

MAKETA: Yes, they were armed with M-16s and shotguns.

COSSACK: And were the suspects armed?

MAKETA: Yes. When we approached the vehicle to remove -- or extract the suspects, we started with the driver first. We had the vehicle surrounded, contained. And then they were all contained at gunpoint.

The driver was then removed from the vehicle, placed in a prune position and searched. And we did recover one handgun from him.

We then removed the right rear passenger, which was Rodriguez, pulled him from the vehicle, pruned him out, searched him, and recovered a handgun from him.

And the final person was Rivas. And he was -- he was a little less cooperative. He wasn't obeying the verbal commands to stay still and to begin to exit the vehicle. And eventually, we had to actually use force to extract him from the vehicle, throw him out. And we recovered a handgun from him.

COSSACK: Did any of them, outside of Rivas, attempt at any time to go for their weapons? Or were you ever -- did you ever think that there was a time that they were not going to surrender as peacefully as they did?

MAKETA: No. I think -- I think the tactics that were used overwhelmed them for the most part.

Rodriguez and Garcia seemed almost shocked. I had a real good view, as Lt. Moore (ph) and myself were covering them from the front of their vehicle. We had taken a position there. And they seemed almost shocked. They seemed to cooperate. And they were quickly secured and taken into custody.

Rivas was a little bit less cooperative.

COSSACK: All right, good job, Commander. The manhunt continues. There are two still on the loose. We will have more on them when we come back. Don't go away.

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by pop singer Michael Bolton. Why did the crooner have a $5.4 million judgment levied against him?

A: Bolton was sued for allegedly stealing a 1960s Isley Brothers tune for his 1991 hit "Love is a Wonderful Thing."

(END Q&A)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: After nearly six weeks on the run, five Texas prison escapees were taken off the street yesterday. Now, four were recaptured by Woodland Park Police and FBI agents. Authorities say another committed suicide. Now the nationwide manhunt focuses on two fugitives with apparently no leads.

Let's go now to Sheriff Frank Fehn of the Teller County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Fehn, welcome to our show. You were present yesterday at the RV when the one man surrendered and the other man committed suicide. Tell us exactly what happened. How many men surrounded that RV from your office?

SHERIFF FRANK FEHN, TELLER COUNTY, COLORADO: From my office we had approximately 14. I had my own personal motor home that had 14 FBI agents in it which permitted us to get close to their motor home.

COSSACK: So there was a total of 28 men at the site?

FEHN: Thereabouts, maybe a few more.

COSSACK: All right. Now, how were your men, both the sheriff and the FBI -- what weapons did you have?

FEHN: We had shotguns, M-16s and 308 long rifles with scopes.

COSSACK: All right, now, approximately what time did you make contact with the two occupants of the RV? And, by the way, how big was that RV that all seven were staying in?

FEHN: Thirty-four feet. And I don't know that all seven were staying in it. We only are positive of five.

COSSACK: All right, approximately what time did you make contact with the occupants of the RV?

FEHN: And also -- I'm sorry?

COSSACK: Approximately what time did you make contact with the occupants of the RV?

FEHN: At about 10:30, quarter of 11:00.

COSSACK: And how did you make contact with them?

FEHN: By voice commands.

COSSACK: And did you use a bullhorn?

FEHN: Eventually we did, but initially we did not have one.

COSSACK: All right, what did you say to them.

FEHN: We identified ourselves and asked them to come out, to come out unarmed so nobody would get hurt. Sometime around 10:30, quarter of 11:00, Mr. Halprin came out unarmed.

COSSACK: And did he come out with his hands up?

FEHN: Yes, he did.

COSSACK: All right, did you ask him to come out face forward or back out?

FEHN: He came out face forward and then he got on the ground and then he got up and we asked him to do certain maneuvers that we could see whether he was armed or unarmed. We had him walk backwards towards us. When he got close towards us, we asked him to get on his knees and to move backwards to us on his knees until he came to us. And then we took him into custody.

COSSACK: Now, did he any time -- did he attempt to give you a hard time, or did he just comply with your requests?

FEHN: He complied with every request.

COSSACK: Now, there was one man left in there, Harper. Did you ever have a conversation with him?

FEHN: We had one-way conversation. By that I mean we kept talking to him, explaining to him that if he wanted to speak with his father, we would provide a cell phone. We wanted him to come out. We did not want to hurt him. We did hot want him to hurt any of us. And he never...

COSSACK: Had you taken precautions with other residents of that RV trailer park to move them prior to your having your encounter with these two suspects?

FEHN: They were all moved out of the area prior to our encounter.

COSSACK: And how soon after you began to talk to Harper did you hear the shots, Sheriff?

FEHN: It was about -- we heard the shot at about 11:50. COSSACK: And did you go -- what happened after you heard the shot? Did you wait awhile or go in immediately?

FEHN: We waited approximately two hours, continuing to negotiate with him. Again, it was one-sided by voice, by bullhorn. Sometime around 2:30, 2:40 the decision was made to launch tear gas. Three .12 gauge tear gas projectiles were put into the motor home. We waited. A few moments later, the FBI made entry and found Mr. Harper.

COSSACK: All right Sheriff Frank Fehn from the Teller County Sheriff's Office, thank you very much for joining us today.

Let's go to Don Clark.

Don, now there's two left. What does the FBI do about going out to find those two?

DON CLARK, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, Roger, first of all, you've had a great operation to go down there with combined efforts there to get these four, and then the fifth one committed. Now you've got to start all over again, in a sense. But keep in mind you start from two different reference points. The first time it was from the Connally Unit in Texas and they had very little information to go on. Now you've got only two that you're looking for, two very dangerous ones. But they are from Woodland Park there in Colorado and the reference is different because you could have a lot of different information. And hopefully with the arrest of those other four people and whatever information may give the law enforcement components a lot more information to go forward.

Still three things to keep in mind in order to get these two, just as it was to locate the others. It's got to be a combined effort of law enforcement, which we sense that they have very much so. The community's got to be involved and the media's got to stay involved in this. And I think by doing that, those two will be in jeopardy of being captured pretty quickly.

COSSACK: Clint, what does it tell you about the fact that all seven of these men were able to stick together? Apparently two of them left the day before, but for a long time seven of them stayed together in this 35-foot -- or whatever size it was I don't recall right now -- trailer and able to apparently get along.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, the interesting thing, Roger, is that these men had previously been incarcerated. They were used to living in close quarters to each other. But they're also sociopaths, and sociopaths care about nothing except number one, themselves. But they've had two things going for them. Number one, they were used to being confined, but now they've self-confined themselves again. Number two, I think, for self-defense. And thirdly, I think they were looking for one last financial score, perhaps, before they went seven different ways. So they still had a common cause that bound some of them together.

But that glue among sociopaths doesn't last long. It was going to fragment, and I think it fragmented about 18 hours just before the authorities got to that trailer court. Otherwise, we'd be sitting here talking about all seven in custody.

COSSACK: Now, apparently -- and we don't know for sure, but apparently some of the five, many of the five, are somewhat cooperating with the authorities. We do not know to what extent, but at least telling them something. Is that unusual?

VAN ZANDT: Well, no. Again, sociopaths, all they care about is themselves. Now, we had the tragic killing of Officer Hawkins. All seven are facing the death penalty in Texas. And if myself or Don Clark or another officer, I'm sitting there and you're interviewing one of these guys in custody, it's very simple. You say, first one who raises his hand and helps us find the other two, you've got a chance. Everybody else, lethal injection. It's your choice.

So it's going to be laid out very easily to them just like when the FBI and the local authorities find the last two. They're going to be given an option to -- bottom line is surrender or die. And they will have that option just like the individuals that were captured yesterday by the sheriff's office and the FBI.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break.

Up next, how a popular television program aided investigators in their nationwide manhunt. Find out how you can help the FBI after this short break. Stay with us.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

The Illinois Supreme Court has set new standards for capital cases, including minimum standards of experience and training for prosecutors and defense lawyers working on such trials. In the past 25 years, Illinois has released more death row inmates than it has executed. Last year, its governor placed a moratorium on executions until the criminal justice system could be revamped.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: A tip from a television viewer led police to Woodland Park, Colorado where five of Texas' most-wanted men were located. Now, four of the men who escaped a Kenedy, Texas prison last month were recaptured. A fifth committed suicide. Two of the fugitives, Patrick Murphy Jr. and Donald Newbury, are still on the run. Police consider them armed and extremely dangerous.

Don, you know, there's been an event in American culture called "America's Most-Wanted," which now -- which was instrumental in giving out the tip that caused the capture of these men so far. Do shows like this really help law enforcement, or do you get almost too many tips?

CLARK: Well, I don't think you can ever get too many tips, Roger. You just have to have the resources to deal with that. An investigation -- when you start to put an investigation together, what you're talking about is a series of tools as to how you get that investigation to a completion -- a successful completion. And in this case, using "America's Most-Wanted" was just one of those tools, and it's a very good tool.

I think that this particular operation has given it a lot more value out there. It's helped us in the past. And any head of an organization that gets involved in this type of a case should certainly consider this as a tool because it gives pertinent information out there. And if you can do it more than once, as they did in this case, it's even an added value.

COSSACK: Clint, I want to go back for a second and talk to you about debriefing these men that were captured. You brought up an interesting point. You said you would tell them, gentlemen, it's live or die. Tell us exactly how you go about doing that. Now, obviously what you want them to do is cooperate with you.

VAN ZANDT: Absolutely.

COSSACK: All right, so how do you do that?

VAN ZANDT: Well, again, you've got debriefing teams, probably two or more agents or officers that just sit down, push the table out of the way and it's just you and I in a room, no sounds, no lights or bright lights or anything else. This is not a heavy interrogation.

COSSACK: But these are tough guys who have seen a lot of cops in their lives.

VAN ZANDT: Yes, and so they're going to be expecting it. What this basically is is a "come to Jesus" time. This is, gentlemen, one at a time, I really don't think that all seven of you were involved in that vicious murder of Officer Hawkins. In fact, one or two of you may tried to have stopped it and your other associates went ahead and did it. Now is the time for you to do two things: number one, come forward and tell me you weren't involved; number two, if that's true, help us find the other two, because whoever was involved is facing the death penalty. You've got one chance to get yourself out of that. Take your chance right now.

And then you sit back. They've got the cards on the table. You're honest, you're right up front with them, there's no tricks, there's no fantasy, there's no smoke and mirrors, it's just you and I and you make a decision. Do you choose life or do you choose death? And it's your choice.

COSSACK: All right, now suppose that there's a little more -- these guys are savvy...

VAN ZANDT: Sure.

COSSACK: ... and they know how badly you want these other two guys, so they say, you know, Mr. Van Zandt -- one of them says, you know, what you're saying makes a lot of sense to me, but it's not just live or do that I'm interested in. I'm interested in maybe seeing the light of day out of that prison sometime. Can you help me there? VAN ZANDT: No, not at all. No, you will never see the light of day. You know that. I mean, if I told you that you were, you would know that I'm lying to you. And I'll tell you what, I'm not going to lie to you about anything we talk about today. And I'll tell you what: You won't see the light of day, but you will see light, and that's your choice. Do you want to see light, or do you not want to see light? Those are the only two options you have. Let me know what you choose.

COSSACK: That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Today on "TALKBACK LIVE," weigh in on an Internet international adoption battle. Who should get the 6-month old twins? Send your e- mail to Bobbie Battista and tune in at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And join us again tomorrow for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.

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