DENVER — With 300 police officers and federal agents swarming outside their Colorado Springs, Colo., hotel room, the last of the Texas Seven fugitives surrendered peacefully before dawn Wednesday.
Acting on a tip from a hotel employee, authorities descended on the Holiday Inn a few blocks from where the two convicts had abandoned their van Tuesday. Patrick Murphy Jr. and Donald Newbury gave themselves up after more than five hours of negotiations, which included an interview with a local TV station.
The two men will join four accomplices--Michael Rodriguez, George Rivas, Joseph Garcia and Randy Halprin--already in custody after being captured in nearby Woodland Park, Colo., on Monday.
Another inmate, Larry Harper, killed himself during a police standoff. The gang had been the object of an intensive, nationwide manhunt since they broke out of a maximum-security prison in Texas on Dec. 13.
Murphy and Newbury had a virtual arsenal in their hotel room--including 10 loaded handguns and two loaded shotguns. Police ordered them to remove their shirts and march backward into the open. Officials said they were thankful that the two were taken into custody without violence.
"All of us, in our heart of hearts, believe this could have ended up in a gun battle. We are elated with the outcome," said Mark Mershon, special FBI agent in charge of Colorado.
The fugitives were found 18 miles from the quiet mountain town where the gang had been hiding out since Jan. 1. It came as some surprise to authorities that the last two had remained in the area after their cohorts' capture.
After the van was found near an interstate highway, authorities had conceded that the pair could be anywhere.
Instead, they were found at a nearby Holiday Inn--sitting in a room watching television reports about themselves. Police called their room about 10 p.m. Tuesday. Murphy answered and expressed surprise to hear a detective on the other end.
"You got us," he said. "I don't know how you guys did it, but you got us."
Negotiations began almost immediately. About midnight, authorities shut off power to the hotel--except for the convicts' room.
Soon after, the pair agreed to surrender, but on one condition: They wanted to make a statement on live television.
Eric Singer, anchor for KKTV in Colorado Springs, was recruited to conduct two five-minute telephone interviews.
The newsman was coached by FBI negotiators not to agitate the men and to keep his questions positive. Singer was shown on camera, conducting the interview via speakerphone.
Both convicts offered Singer scathing opinions of the Texas correctional system and insights into their 42-day, 800-mile odyssey from Kenedy, Texas, to the Colorado mountains.
Newbury, who was serving a 99-year sentence for armed robbery, referred to the prison break as "our self-extraction [from] the unit" and said that the group took pains so that no one would be hurt.
"It could have been a blood bath," he said. "We could have been out of there in 30 minutes instead of 2 1/2 hours. We took time with these people to do it gently."
Murphy, who was serving a 50-year sentence for aggravated sexual assault, said that about a week after escaping the gang found themselves caught in a blizzard in Texas. Still driving a stolen prison vehicle, they decided on the spur of the moment to head north. "Colorado was just a random pick."
Murphy said the group first stopped in Pueblo, south of Colorado Springs, and then drove straight to Woodland Park, at the foot of Pikes Peak.
The seven convicts settled into a mobile home park and lived in a 34-foot recreation vehicle. They introduced themselves to their neighbors as a Christian group, mingled in town and even attended Bible study classes. Some of the men attempted to alter their appearances by dying their hair and growing beards or goatees.
Murphy said they often joked about their disguises and attempts to maintain a low profile.
The convicts face capital murder charges stemming from the slaying of a police officer in Irving, Texas, on Christmas Eve during a holdup at a sporting goods store.