4 appear eligible for rewards for tips on Texas escapees

Groups offering money await word from police

January 31, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

IRVING, Texas - Up in Colorado, they're calling it the "Texas Lottery" - the half-million-dollar reward for the captured escapees.

At least four tipsters appear to be eligible, but they may have to wait a while.

Most of the organizations that are offering the reward money say they will wait for the Irving Police Department to determine who will receive it. An Irving police officer was slain on Christmas Eve, and one of the escapees is suspected.

"That's something we won't be able to get to until further in the case," police spokesman David Tull said.

Police and federal agents sifted through the hundreds of calls that came in each time the seven escapees were featured on the TV program "America's Most Wanted."

At least three people in Woodland Park, Colo., contacted the local sheriff's office after viewing the program Jan. 20. Those tips led to the capture on Jan. 22 of four inmates: George Rivas, Michael Rodriguez, Joseph Garcia and Randy Halprin. A fifth escapee, Larry Harper, fatally shot himself after police surrounded him.

On Jan. 23, police sifted tips about the last two escapees, Donald Newbury and Patrick Murphy Jr. Restaurant employees saw the van ditched by the men in Colorado Springs, and another tip led police to a nearby Holiday Inn where the men surrendered.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice posted a $7,000 reward when the inmates escaped Dec. 13, and the amount snowballed after they were linked to the death of Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins on Christmas Eve. The final total is $502,500 from at least eight organizations, along with North Texas residents and Hawkins' friends.

Schepps Dairy, which offered $15,000, stipulates that the cash will be paid when the escapees are indicted. Bond Jumper, a Web site for bounty hunters, put up $100,000 "for information leading to the arrest and conviction" of the escapees.

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