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Two Remaining Texas Escapees Surrender After Making News Statements

Aired January 24, 2001 - 7:00 a.m. ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: A real-life drama has been unfolding in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It ended exactly one hour and fifteen minutes ago with a peaceful surrender of the remaining two Texas fugitives.

Originally, there were seven who escaped from a Kennedy, Texas, prison six weeks ago. Four escapees were captured, and a fifth committed suicide in Woodland Park, Colorado, Monday. The final two fugitives, Patrick Murphy and Donald Newbury, gave up this morning after giving an interview to a Colorado Springs TV anchor.

We are going to bring you that interview in its entirety in just one minute, but first we want to go to CNN's Frank Buckley, who is at the scene of the surrender.

Frank, how did it unfold?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, the fugitives were discovered staying at this Holiday Inn motel sometime yesterday. Police confirmed their location within the hotel, and at approximately 10 p.m. last night, negotiations began with Patrick Murphy and Donald Newbury.

At some point, the two fugitives asked for an interview with a local television station. They asked that the interview be broadcast live. Police asked broadcasters and CNN not to broadcast it live. CNN honored that commitment, but shortly after the interview began at 3:29 a.m. local time, both men gave themselves up and were taken into custody, ending the hunt for the so-called Texas Seven, the men who broke out of a Texas prison in early December.

So that is the situation here right now -- Carol.

LIN: All right, Frank Buckley, we want you to continue to stand by because we have some questions -- more questions about exactly how the situation unfolded.

But as we promised, we want to show our audience the interviews in its entirety, both of Patrick Murphy and Donald Newbury, who surrendered on the condition that they be able to speak to a local TV anchor. The TV anchor is Eric Singer of KKTV.

And we begin now with the interview with Patrick Murphy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK MURPHY JR., ESCAPEE: I was actually up for parole when I made the decision to join in this escape, OK, and what would force me to do this was the penal institution and such. The way Texas has things set up is that I felt that my life on the outside -- I would eventually become an outlaw again anyway because of the parole stipulations and such.

We -- I felt that by trying to make this statement, maybe we can make more people -- more people aware that there is a definite wrong within the penal system of the state of Texas, and that, you know, we would hope that the -- you know, maybe our -- what we're doing here would open the eyes of the people, OK.

If you have some questions you feel free to answer them now -- I mean ask them.

ERIC SINGER, KKTV ANCHOR: Many people are wondering how did the Texas Seven decide on Colorado? How did you decide, what took you on that journey? How did you decide on Colorado? I understand, when I was listening to negotiations, you were talking about a snowstorm you were involved in. Why don't you elaborate on that?

MURPHY: OK, what happened was, really, Colorado was just a random pick -- OK. We had to drive out of the Texas snowstorm that hit right at Christmas Eve in the Amarillo area, and we had to drive through the blizzard for hours, and literally, Colorado was just a random pick.

SINGER: Now, when you arrived in Colorado, where did your journey take you?

MURPHY: I believe our first stop was Pueblo area.

SINGER: Yes, and then you went from Pueblo to?

MURPHY: To -- we went straight to Woodland Park.

SINGER: When you were in Woodland Park, obviously the "Texas Seven" America's most wanted. Your pictures are up everywhere. How exactly did you blend in? What kind -- you were up there several weeks. How did you blend in? How did you, you know, hide -- try to be a sort of chameleon within the community?

MURPHY: Well, that was rather -- we joked about often, but it was really just by downplaying ourselves and changing our hair color and such.

SINGER: Now, tell me, you're talking about the fact that you were changing your hair color and such. You were trying to blend in. What exactly was your day to day life? Obviously, it's going to be a lot difficult and different than it would be for me.

MURPHY: Day to day life was, you know, we tried to remain as calm as possible at all times, but vigilant. It would be difficult to get into that right now.

SINGER: Now many times we had talked to several people in the Woodland Park area, and they had said that they had seen many of you out in the community. They had said hi to you. Obviously, they had also said the fact that you attended Christian meetings; that you tried to blend into the community. Tell me a little bit about that.

MURPHY: OK, yes, we attempted to be as friendly and as neighborly as we could. As far as the Christian meetings were, that was only one man and he was the man who committed suicide. That was part of the cover, I guess, you could say. You know, we were trying to -- He was trying to pass us off as a -- like a church work crew traveling around.

SINGER: And the decisions within the group to blend into the community -- was there anything specifically that they had talked about to blend?

MURPHY: No, the things that we did we just played by ear day to day.

SINGER: You were talking about dying your hair. Like when we've seen these -- seen the people, I mean, what color hair do you have now?

MURPHY: I guess it's kind of a blondish-red, you know, with very dark roots because my hair is growing out fast.

SINGER: That's right. And you had dark hair, as I recall, in some of your pictures?


SINGER: All right. Well, we are -- we have about five seconds left. So if you could go ahead and just wrap up however you'd like so that way you can immediately go outside and honor your commitment.

MURPHY: OK, I want to say thank you very much. The authorities here have been very professional in our dealings and, hopefully, like I said, maybe this will open eyes in some people is that the penal system is -- does have problems within it.


LIN: That was Patrick Murphy. Now, a moment later he handed the phone to fellow fugitive Donald Newbury. And here is that interview.


DONALD NEWBURY, ESCAPEE: ... the way I see it is I had to make a statement. Our judicial system in the state of Texas has really gone to pits. We're receiving 99 years for a robbery for $68, nobody injury -- injured.

There's no proof that a gun was used in the robbery, other than an unreliable witness that picked out several IDs and everything before, which created a statement through information of my priors and everything else that apparently the prosecutor had given to him, which is strictly against the law as well. We have a Texas ranger. He admitted in trial that the evidence was tainted. Yet, I received 99 years.

The same day I went to trial, there was a man that cut another man's nuts off during an aggravated robbery of a convenience store and got 40 years. I don't see how the system is actually working. It's fallen. I don't hold it against the administration or the officers involved in what we're doing.

I've done crime -- you've got to face the music. But there's got to be something within reason in the state of Texas. They're giving kids so much time that they will never get to see light again. Their life is gone. Now all they are is a roach in a cage.

Things have to be changed. There needs to be more rehabilitation in the system down there. You know, I can't -- couldn't even go to college. Oh, Lord, you can't go to college. Come on, where's the rehabilitation when you can't even help yourself?

The whole thing from the beginning, from our self-extraction from the unit, that was done very peacefully as possible. We hurt the officers very little. There was only the ones that resisted. It could have been a bloodbath; we could have been out of there in 30 minutes instead of 2 1/2 hours. We took time to take these people and do it gently instead of 30 minutes.

We are not trying to start a big bum rush, but I have a feeling that the fences are fixing to be rushed hard, because of the time they're given. And even if you do make parole, the way they've got the system set up, it's going to make you fall. I've been told to quit my jobs, and stuff like that, by parole officers. What kind of system tells you, look, you're doing good, you're earning $8 an hour, you know, you just got out the joint -- quit your job. I don't understand it.

The system needs to be checked. It needs to be rebuilt, reconstructed. I'm not saying do away with it or nothing else; I'm just saying make something that will work. The Texas system's not working. I had to threaten to beat my attorneys -- beat my attorney up -- so I could get another attorney, because my first attorney had spent three months and hadn't even come talk to me. What kind of judicial system gives you a defense that won't even show up?

All right -- hello?

SINGER: Hello, I'm here.

NEWBURY: All right.

SINGER: I'm here, I'm listening to you. I just didn't want to interrupt you.

NEWBURY: All right, that's pretty much what I've got to say, is we had a statement to make that the system is as corrupt as we are. If you're going to do something about us, well, do something about that system, too. It is going to take the public, and it's going to take a lot of screaming and hollering.

And the reason I am stepping out these doors tonight is not from fear because I had been set for the last 40 days to die. I am stepping out of these doors with the sole purpose of honoring the person I love and to keep my voice in the media. I am going to start writing, I'm probably going -- we're both going to do it. We're going to keep screaming, we're going to start trying to get something changed.

Something's got to change. You're killing people. Now are we killing people that did something wrong? You're tearing families apart.

There's one incident where a guy got paroled. He got dressed up to go out and see his mother and stuff out there, and they turn around and turn him back in, sent him back to his unit. What kind of mental anguish, what kind of cruelty is that? That's the same as public hangings, except you are tearing up families too.


LIN: Right after that call, Donald Newbury and Patrick Murphy fulfilled their commitment to police, walking out of their hotel room and surrendering.

We now go back to CNN's Frank Buckley, who is standing by at the scene of the surrender.

And, Frank, I understand that you're about to speak with a federal agent who was involved in this standoff.

BUCKLEY: We have with us Special Agent -- ATF Special Agent Tom Mengan.

First of all, are you satisfied with the outcome of the negotiation here?

TOM MENGAN, ATF: Absolutely, we're happy with the peaceful outcome, that these two violent individuals surrendered themselves, no shots were fired, and no one was harmed.

BUCKLEY: Can you give us a sense of the preparations? We've all seen the live television interviews that were taking place. We've seen the final outcome. Can you give us a sense, now that it's over, of some of the preparations that were underway and how this could have gone another way?

MENGAN: I mean, as you could tell, the negotiations were exhausting. For over five hours, negotiations were going on with these two individuals. It was a lot of manpower, a lot of man-hours.

BUCKLEY: And there were, needless to say, special weapons and tactics officers deployed. Can you tell us how much they knew and what kind of preparations they had made? MENGAN: Again, this whole Holiday Inn was surrounded by tactical teams. The Colorado Springs tactical unit, the FBI tactical units, and negotiators are to be commended by this successful outcome.

I think both individuals had nowhere to go. I think the noose was tightening around their necks. With all the media attention they were getting, they had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.

BUCKLEY: We learned yesterday that -- that through interviews with the fugitives who are already in custody, that these fugitives, the final two fugitives, did, in fact, have some weaponry -- we were told at least a dozen weapons between the two of them. Had -- is there any evidence, upon looking at the room, that they were, in fact, armed?

MENGAN: Presently, ATF and Irving authorities are drafting a search warrant for that room. We fully anticipate to recover firearms. Yesterday, we did recover the firearm of the slain officer, Officer Hawkins.

And again, I think just because today one chapter closed -- we have a murder investigation to deal with, and we have some fugitives that need to be extradited back to Texas to face those charges.

BUCKLEY: That is new information about the police officer's weapon being located. We hadn't heard that yesterday. Can you tell us under what circumstances?

MENGAN: The firearm was located in the Jeep Cherokee.

BUCKLEY: OK, thank you very much, Special Agent Tom Mengan.

Also joining us now is Brian Rackham; he is the News Director of KKTV television. This is the television station that Eric Singer was working for, that broadcast this interview live.

First, Brian, can you tell us what went into your decision-making as to whether nor not to allow your reporter to participate in this?

BRIAN RACKHAM, KKTV NEWS DIRECTOR: Well, I had covered one of these before as a radio reporter, a situation very similar to this, in the early '80s, and it ended much the same way. And we thought about it, and we felt like the thing to do was to try and save lives. And I also felt it was a legitimate news story.

And so we went down to the hotel, and we watched during the negotiations, and they offered up a couple of scenarios. One was a face-to-face meeting that did not happen, and then finally, the telephone scenario, that ended peacefully.

And I think it ended well. I think Eric acted responsibly. And I think that, you know, fortunately, those lives were saved.

BUCKLEY: You can be our eyes and ears inside of the room where the negotiations were taking place.


BUCKLEY: I heard you earlier during this drama, as it was unfolding, say that you couldn't say much about the negotiations and the tenor of what was happening. Can you give us a sense now of what was being said back and forth, and how was it going in there?

RACKHAM: Well, you know, I think the real heroes in this are the negotiators, who set this all up to where if they got their interview, they would give up. And that's -- throughout the entire evening, the idea was to keep steering them toward nonviolent outcomes. They were talking about everything from movies to some of their road adventures -- getting stuck in the snow -- and they vented a lot.

And I think the -- the idea was to try and outlast them. To get them to get tired and use up all their energy talking and commiserating about their trials and tribulations.

And generally speaking, it was not a violent situation. They seemed very lucid, didn't seem drunk. I think they were resigned to the fact it was going to end, but they had some defiance in them. And the negotiators successfully wore them down.

And then Eric came in and it ended peacefully.

BUCKLEY: CNN made an editorial decision not to broadcast the interviews live. You opted to go for the live broadcast -- tell us why.

RACKHAM: Well, I think it had legitimate news value, especially in this community. I think people wanted to know. I think it's very legitimate to find out what they were thinking and what they were saying. I also feel that the value of saving lives and ending the situation peacefully was very important, as well. We're citizens in the community. And it's certainly up to every journalist's individual choice, but I think we made the right decision.

BUCKLEY: With your reporter Eric Singer -- did he volunteer for the assignment? Was he selected? Did you counsel him that this could be dangerous? Can you give us a sense of that sort of discussion?

RACKHAM: He was selected, as I understand it -- requested. And we did talk about that. But I was quite confident we would not be placed in the line of fire. I mean, police officers aren't going to do that. But if we could offer some assistance and also, of course, get a story which was an incredible story, we would do it.

BUCKLEY: When you say that at one point a face-to-face was offered up, is this -- was a request from the fugitives or...

RACKHAM: Well, I'm not sure. They were talking about possibly having one of the fugitives give up, go into one of the conference rooms, and interview with Eric, and then the other one would see it on television, and he would give up. As it turns out, they decided to do the telephone route and do it together.

BUCKLEY: Are you satisfied with the outcome? RACKHAM: Oh, I'm very satisfied with the outcome, and I think that it was handled very well by law enforcement. And it was a last resort on their part, and they weren't comfortable doing this. And in many ways we weren't either, but you know, I think it was necessary, and I think that in the end the most important thing is that those two people, you know, didn't kill themselves or get shot.

BUCKLEY: Brian, if you could stand by for a second, Carol Lin has a question for you, and I'm going to sort of translate since you don't have an IFBN (ph).

Carol, go ahead.

LIN: Frank, I'm wondering if you could ask Brian, since this interview was a condition of their surrender, did the federal agents tell him and his reporter that there were certain conditions that they not ask certain questions? Did the federal agents have a role in what kinds of questions their reporter asked?

BUCKLEY: Carol Lin is asking did the federal agents prohibit or in any way limit the questions that Eric Singer could ask...

RACKHAM: No, no, there were no ground rules. The only ground rule was that we would give them five minutes. And you know, they were there to offer suggestions on how they might steer them to try and give up, but they wound up not doing that. So, no, they didn't control the editorial content of what we did -- I mean, other than the fact that they were allowed to speak their piece, which I thought was pretty interesting news in itself.

BUCKLEY: In a situation like this, you could end up becoming agents of the police, in a sense, if in fact they fed you questions, asked you to do something. With your counsel to your reporter, what did you ask or suggest to your reporter, or was this something that Eric simply, on his own, decided how to conduct the interview?

RACKHAM: I think Eric and I both knew as journalists, the number of years we've been in the business, that -- how to handle ourselves in a situation like this.

And people can say we were used. I don't know. I don't -- I think that we got a story out of this situation, and I think that it ended peacefully. And so I don't really have a problem with what we did.

BUCKLEY: OK, that is Brian Rackham, the news director here at KKTV, in Colorado Springs, which played a dramatic role in bringing to an end the search for the final two fugitives -- Carol.

LIN: Thank you so much, Frank Buckley, reporting live from Colorado Springs.

And at the bottom of the hour, we'll talk with Colorado Springs Police Lieutenant Skip Arms, who was at the scene during the negotiations with the fugitives.

EARLY EDITION will take a quick break -- and we'll be right back.



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