Last members of Texas seven surrender to police

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The last two members of a Texas jailbreak gang who eluded a police manhunt for more than a month surrendered peacefully at a Colorado motel early yesterday after a night of tense negotiation with federal and local agents.

The last two members of a Texas jailbreak gang who eluded a police manhunt for more than a month surrendered peacefully at a Colorado motel early yesterday after a night of tense negotiation with federal and local agents.

Patrick Murphy and Donald Newbury walked, unarmed and shirtless, out of the Holiday Inn on the outskirts of Colorado Springs and offered no resistance when they were handcuffed and taken to the local county jail. Their capture ended a remarkable 42-day episode that began with an audacious seven-man escape from the maximum-security Connally Unit near San Antonio, Texas.

The fugitives went on a cross-country loop during which they robbed an electrical goods shop, stole weapons and tens of thousands of dollars from a sporting goods store outside Dallas, killed a police patrolman in a flurry of bullets, and finally settled - quietly and undetected - in a Colorado trailer park where they passed themselves off as travelling Christians.

Alerted to their whereabouts over the weekend, police pounced on three of the so-called Texas Seven on Tuesday as they pulled up outside a convenience store near the trailer park. A fourth gave himself up after taking refuge in a mobile home at the Coachlight trailer park, in the Rocky Mountain foothills, about 20 miles from Colorado Springs. A fifth urged police to let him speak to his father, then killed himself with a shotgun blast to the stomach.

Policeexpressed relief that the manhunt had ended without more bloodshed. Mark Mershon, the senior Federal Bureau of Investigation agent for Colorado, who led the six-hour final negotiation, said: "All of us in our heart of hearts believed this could have ended up in a gun battle. We are elated with the outcome."

If the Texas Seven, a wellorganised gang of convicted murderers, armed robbers and sexual assailants, ended up wreaking less havoc than Bonnie and Clyde - the Depression-era fugitives with whom they were compared - they nevertheless did their best to create a Bonnie and Clyde-style mystique as modern outlaw heroes.

Theirs was a story for the mass-media age: the police were tipped off by a resident of the Coachlight trailer park after their photos were featured on the television programme America's Most Wanted. And Murphy and Newbury insisted, as a condition of their surrender, that they each be given five minutes of interview time with the local CNN affiliate.

Both men used the opportunity to lambast the Texas penal system, saying draconian sentencing, inadequate defence counsel and an unforgiving parole system were condemning young men to a lifelong cycle of crime and incarceration.

Newbury said: "The system is giving kids so much time they will never see their life again. Their life is gone, like a roach in a cage." Charged and eventually convicted for armed robbery, he said he had to kick and scream to demand another lawyer after the one originally assigned to him failed to visit him for three months. He saw no logic in receiving a 99-year sentence for a robbery in which nobody was injured, the eyewitness testimony was faulty and just $68 was taken.

Murphy, a convicted sex offender, said he had been due for parole soon but chose to join the jailbreak gang because he saw no hope in a system that would deny him the right to work, to study or try to lead an honest life once he was released.

Both men seemed to understand the power of their fleeting status as media celebrities, and Newbury in particular vowed to keep using that power to rail against the system. Neither man expressed regret for the killing of the policeman near Dallas - a crime that could put all six surviving members on Death Row - but they didsay they went out of their wayto keep violence to a minimum.

To avoid detection, they died their hair or grew short beards, and socialised with othermobile-home dwellers. They played Christian music to bolster their story that they were attending a religious convention. At the same time, however, they were heavily armed.

Police recovered 35 weapons, including handguns, assault weapons and sawn-off shotguns from the trailer park and 10 pistols and two shotguns from the motel.