Martin Gurule, 29, who was convicted of double murder during a restaurant robbery in 1992, is the first condemned man to escape from a Texas prison since a member of the legendary Bonnie and Clyde gang in the Thirties.
Police deployed boats, horses, dogs and helicopters in their attempts to trace Gurule, who fled Ellis I prison near the northern Texas town of Huntsville on Friday. More than 500 police and prison guards were involved in the search.
Six other prisoners - all "death row" inmates, awaiting execution by injection - escaped with him, but the others were recaptured almost at once. The seven convicts had made their break by night in heavy fog, disguising their absence by placing pillows and blankets in their beds.
They had camouflaged their prison clothing by dyeing it dark grey with ink from their prison-issue felt-tip pens.
All had been allowed to work at the prison's clothing factory in return for good behaviour.
Their classification as "work capable" enabled them to leave their cells, eat in the canteen and have more than the standard hour of "recreation" time each day. Gurule lost an appeal against his conviction almost a year ago, but no date had been set for his execution.
"Death row" prisoners may wait for years before their sentence is carried out, and the state of Texas currently has 454 prisoners awaiting execution. It has recently tried to speed the rate of executions, and has executed 17 people this year.
On Saturday the manhunt had shifted to a small town four miles east of the prison, where a resident had fired shots at an intruder. The intruder turned out not to be Gurule, however, and yesterday the search moved back closer to the prison. With no reported sightings or burglaries in areas further afield, the favoured theory was that the fugitive was still in a densely wooded area close to the prison.
"We're still steadfast and resolved that this guy is here," said Larry Fitzgerald, the spokesman for Texas prisons.Reuse content