Kenedy is located in the southern part of Texas, some 62 miles southeast of San Antonio. With a population of 3,763, it is the largest city in Karnes County, serving as an economic hub for the outlying agricultural and ranching area. First called Kenedy Junction when it was founded as a town site in 1886, Kenedy grew up rapidly due to its position as a major stop on the San Antonio and Arkansas Pass Railroad. With growth came bad guys, mostly gunfighters, and by the turn of the century Kenedy was being referred to as "Six-Shooter Junction." With little else besides agriculture and ranching to support its economy, the area remained primarily rural and waseventually outgrown by communities in other parts of the state.
After the United States entered World War II, the community became the home of the Kenedy Intemment Camp. Originally a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, the internment camp materialized after the U.S. Government persuaded a number of Latin American countries to deport people of German, Japanese, and Italian ancestries to the U.S. so that they could be exchanged for Allied prisoners, particularly for those in Japan. The first 700 or so internees arrived in April 1942, and the camp housed about 2,000 internees by the following year. The Japanese internees ran a 32-acre vegetable farm located nearby, and the German internees ran a slaughterhouse. Today a residential area occupies the site.
Nearly a century after being nicknamed "Six-Shooter Junction," Kenedy still has a large number of bad guys in its midst. Few people paid them any mind, however, because everyone believed that they were safely confined, with little or no chance of escape, behind the walls of the John Connally Unit--a maximum-security prison located just outside of town and operated under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Until recently most people outside the region hadn't even heard of Kenedy, Texas. That all changed on Wednesday, December 13, 2000, when seven of society's lowest dregs would stage a brazen, commandolike prison break, a breakout that was orchestrated with such military precisionand efficiency that some would speculate it must have taken a year or longer to plan.
December 13 turned out to be a particularly cold day in Kenedy. The temperature remained below 30 degrees during the early morning hours, between midnight and four A.M., and it only warmed up to the low forties by that afternoon. It rained more than an inch in South Texas that morning, and the temperature brought the threat of freezing rain. Because of the inclement weather conditions, prisoners of the Connally Unit's inside yard squad were not required to turn out for their work duties. Other prisoners, however, whose work duties were normally performed indoors, were not affected by the weather restriction.
George Rivas, 30, inmate number 702267, was serving 99 years for aggravated kidnapping and burglary committed in El Paso, and he was tired of life behind prison walls. Although he had attained trustee status and a job in the prison's maintenance department, considered one of the best duty assignments in the prison, he had become disheartened by the grim prospect of never walking the streets a free man again, of spending his nights confined to an austere 8' X 8' cell equipped with only a bunk, a wash basin, and a toilet. He was sick of the lousy food that was typically served in the mess hall, and he was tired of hearing the metal doors slide shut after he returned to his cell at lockdown. Rivas had been making plans for some time, along with six other inmates, to do somethingabout it, and he had decided that this was the day to carry out his plans.
It was 11:20 A.M. when guards and supervisors returned 20 inmates who were assigned to the maintenance department, to their housing areas. Then the guards and supervisors went to lunch, which was what Rivas and his cohorts had counted on. Earlier, these five had convinced Patrick Moczygemba, a maintenance supervisor, to allow them to remain behind to wax and seal the maintenance department's floors. That, they figured correctly, would be effective in keeping most of the other prisoners, as well as the guards, out of the area. They had also convinced Moczygemba to allow them to take their lunch in a "picnic spread" in the maintenance area and to use food that they had purchased at the commissary, instead of eating with the rest of the prison population in the dining area. It was a privilege afforded the best-behaved inmates, and Moczygemba had agreed to allow them this "luxury." Since it was not uncommon for this group of prisoners to be assigned special projects in the maintenance department, Moczygemba agreed to stay and watch Rivas, as well as Joseph Garcia, 29, Randy Halprin, 23, Larry Harper, 37, and Donald Newbury, 38, while the other supervisors went to lunch. Mark Burgess, another maintenance supervisor, allowed one of the inmates under his authority, Patrick Murphy, 39, to also remain in the department for lunch to assist the others in completing the project.
Another inmate, Michael Rodriguez, 38, who wasin on the plan, had been assigned to the inside yard squad that day, but due to the inclement weather he was forced to abide by the weather-related work restriction that the rest of his squad was under. However, Rodriguez had previously made an appointment to visit the law library, which he kept that particular morning. After about an hour, he checked out at 9:40 A.M., and was subsequently, albeit inadvertently, allowed through the gate at the A turnout area. There he gained access to the maintenance area (where he was not supposed to be) after telling guards that he had been assigned to pick up trash. Rodriguez spent much of the remainder of the morning sitting on a bench just outside the maintenance department, where several prison employees later recalled seeing him. No one, except for the escapees, knew that he had positioned himself as the lookout for the other six inmates while they put their plan into motion.
By 11:30 A.M. there was no turning back. Moczygemba, dressed in a gray-and-black flannel shirt, Wrangler blue jeans, a Ranger belt, and brown Red Wing boots, was sitting at his desk in the maintenance office when Rivas came in and got his attention.
"You're needed in the warehouse," Rivas told him.
Without questioning Rivas, Moczygemba pushed his paperwork aside and got up from his desk. When he reached the warehouse, located behind the maintenance department, the other inmates were busy clearing the floor so that they could begin waxing and sealing. Nothing seemed to be amiss, and when Moczygembaasked why he was needed, Harper joined Rivas and pointed to a large motor on the floor, beneath a table.
"What should we do with that motor?" Harper asked without a trace of uneasiness in his voice as he gestured toward the motor. "We need to get it off the floor."
As Moczygemba leaned down to look at the motor, one of the inmates, brandishing an ax handle, rushed over and struck him in the head.
The blow rendered him momentarily unconscious. Then, as he regained some of his senses, the dazed and blurry-eyed Moczygemba began to struggle with the inmates. Garcia ended the scuffle by holding a handmade knife to the supervisor's neck.
"A few more years to our sentences don't mean anything to us," Garcia said. "We'll kill you if we need to."
Moczygemba stopped struggling, and the inmates proceeded to remove his pants and shirt. Afterward they tied his hands and legs, shoved a gag inside his mouth, and placed a pillowcase over his head. They then carried him to the electrical room at the back of the warehouse where they forced him to lie facedown on the floor.
The inmates also stole his sunglasses, watch, keys, and his wallet, which contained several credit cards and $30 cash. They also took two blue Texas Department of Criminal Justice coats from his office, as well as a camouflage cap and a blue ski cap. His keysgave them access to the sensitive tools room where they stole several pairs of wire-cutting pliers, two hacksaws, a bolt cutter, and a utility knife. Rodriguez, who had been standing guard outside the maintenance department, was then allowed inside, where he would assist the others in the next stage of Rivas's escape plan.
Minutes later, at 11:45 A.M., Alan Camber, another maintenance supervisor, and Alejandro Marroquin, a corrections officer, returned from lunch and sat down at their desks inside the maintenance office. Rivas, Halprin, Harper, Murphy, and Newbury entered and began talking to them. As part of the group spoke to Marroquin, Murphy and Garcia questioned Camber regarding a part they said they needed for a vacuum cleaner. After gaining the two men's attention, Rivas walked behind Marroquin and grabbed him in a bear hug while, simultaneously, Garcia attacked Camber from behind.
As Marroquin struggled to break free Halprin, Harper, and Newbury helped Rivas force him to the floor. After removing his uniform and shoes, they quickly bound the officer's hands and legs with plastic ties and duct tape, and attempted to place a gag inside his mouth. When he refused to open his mouth Newbury punched him in the nose. That opened his mouth, and they placed the gag inside. After robbing him of his watch, keys, identification card, and $65 cash, they carried Marroquin to the electrical room and placed him on the floor next to Moczygemba.
Rivas, meanwhile, helped Garcia force Camber to the floor. Garcia placed a sharp, pointed object in Camber's left ear and threatened to shove it all the way in if Camber did not quit struggling. Fearing for his life, Camber did as he was told and allowed the prisoners to remove his black Wrangler jeans and his boots. After stealing his keys, pocketknife, wallet containing his prison identification, and $60 cash, they bound him just like the others and dragged him into the electrical room where they slammed his head against an electrical conduit on the wall, knocking him out cold. They placed a pillowcase over his head and wrapped duct tape around it in the area of his eyes.
By noon, Manuel Segura and Mark Burgess, having finished with their lunch, were on their way back to the maintenance department. Shortly after arriving back at their offices, Rivas entered and approached Burgess.
"Mr. Moczygemba is in the warehouse and needs to see you," Rivas said.
Having no reason to disbelieve him, Burgess followed Rivas to the warehouse. When he entered the warehouse, Burgess saw no sign of Moczygemba. As he was about to say something, Halprin, kneeling down by the motor beneath the table, called for Burgess to take a look at it.
"We need to know what to do with this motor," Halprin said.
As Burgess walked toward Halprin, one of theother inmates struck him in the back of the head with the ax handle. He fell to the floor and momentarily lost consciousness. As he began to come around, Burgess felt something sharp at the back of his neck, at his back, and below his right armpit.
"This is no joke," Rivas told him. "We go home, and you go home, or not. It's up to you."
Garcia placed what appeared to be a Plexiglas shank--or homemade knife--in Burgess's left ear and threatened to apply force if he didn't remain quiet and cooperate. Then, just like the others, Halprin proceeded to remove Burgess's clothing, bind his feet and hands, place a gag inside his mouth and duct tape over his eyes, and drag him to the electrical room with the others. Halprin also took Burgess's wallet, which contained his driver's license, Social Security card, and a credit card. Rivas used the same ruse to get Segura into the warehouse, and he was likewise taken captive. Segura was visibly shaken and scared, fearing for his life.
"If you calm down and stay quiet," Rivas told Segura, "nothing will happen to you."
By 12:20 P.M. the seven prisoners had been carrying out their escape plans for an hour when Jerry McDowell, a recreational program specialist often referred to as the "Coach," walked into the maintenance department and found Rivas, Halprin, and Murphy sitting in the office, alone and unsupervised.
"Why are you guys alone?" McDowell asked.
"Mr. Moczygemba went to 18 dorm," Rivas told him. "He'll be back in a few minutes."
McDowell apparently believed him, and asked to check out a toolbox. Murphy volunteered to go to the warehouse to get the toolbox and the checkout log. When he returned he handed both items to Halprin, who in turn passed them to McDowell. The coach signed the log, wrote in the time, turned, and walked out with the toolbox. Thinking that perhaps he should be added to their collection of captives, Rivas followed him out of the office and asked him to come back. But McDowell refused the request and continued out of the area.
Five minutes later, at 12:25 P.M., three additional maintenance supervisors returned from lunch. Mark Garza, Martin Gilley, and Ronny Haun walked into the maintenance department, each paying the convicts little or no mind. Gilley went into the electrical shop, Garza sat down at his desk in the office, and Haun walked into the warehouse. As with the others, the convicts took them captive one at a time.
"Mr. Haun, could you please take a look at this?" Newbury asked as he pointed toward a shelf in the warehouse.
As Haun walked toward the shelf in question, Newbury grabbed him and placed him in a headlock. Rivas moved in quickly and helped Newbury force him to the floor and attempted to place a gag inside his mouth. As Haun struggled, Rivas punched him twice in the nose. When he cried out in pain, Rivas shovedthe gag inside his mouth. But the supervisor continued to struggle with his attackers until another inmate held a Plexiglas knife to the back of Haun's left ear. Haun then settled down and allowed the prisoners to bind his arms and legs. Then he was carried to the electrical room.
While Haun was being subdued, convict Harper walked into Garza's office and asked him to come into the warehouse to take a look at the motor beneath the table and he was taken captive in turn. Simultaneously, Garcia walked into the electrical shop where Gilley was working.
"Would you like something to eat, Mr. Gilley?" Garcia asked.
"No, thanks," Gilley responded.
Garcia walked out of the shop as if everything was okay. Moments later Murphy entered the electrical shop.
"Mr. Moczygemba wants to see you in the warehouse," Murphy said.
Gilley followed Murphy, and upon entering he warehouse he was attacked by Garcia, Halprin, Newbury, and Rodriguez.
"Don't resist and you won't be harmed," Halprin told Gilley. Gilley submitted and removed his clothes, was bound and taken to the electrical room with the others.
At 12:40 P.M., an hour and twenty minutes into the operation, another maintenance supervisor, Terry Schmidt, returned from lunch escorting two inmates,David Cook and Roger Fishwick, from the cellblock to the maintenance department for a work detail. Rivas met them, and told Schmidt that Mr. Moczygemba needed to see him in the warehouse right away. Upon entering the warehouse, several of the escapees attacked Schmidt from behind.
While Schmidt was being subdued, Murphy went inside the maintenance office and began talking to inmates Cook and Fishwick.
"We're having a spread in the back," Murphy said. "Why don't you guys come on back and fix yourselves a plate?"
Fishwick declined the offer, but Cook immediately went to the back of the warehouse where Rivas met him and punched him in the face. Although dazed, Cook swung back at Rivas. Sensing that Rivas might need some help, one of the other inmates rushed over and struck Cook in the back of the head with the ax handle that they had been using. Murphy, meanwhile, went back to the maintenance office and forced Fishwick inside the warehouse where he, too, was struck in the back of the head with the ax handle. Cook and Fishwick were then bound like the others and taken to the electrical room.
Five minutes later, at 12:45 P.M., Randy Albert, a correctional officer, walked into the maintenance office to check out a hitch for his unit's utility vehicle, commonly referred to as a gator. Assigned to the trash crew that day, Albert needed the hitch and the gator to haul lumber. Albert was somewhat disturbed whenhe entered the maintenance office and saw only inmates present without any supervision. He knew that sometimes the supervisor would go to the warehouse and leave an inmate in the office area alone, a violation of the prison system's rules and regulations but not uncommon. He knew that the rule was often bent by many prison employees, and he was not overly disturbed.
"Where is Mr. Moczygemba?" Albert asked.
"He's in the warehouse," Rivas told him.
When Albert entered the warehouse, he saw no sign of Moczygemba, only inmates. As he looked around he saw a handheld radio and a set of keys on the floor, and immediately sensed that something was very wrong. Before he could act, however, three of the inmates attacked him from behind and forced him to the floor. One of them placed a knife against his face and warned him not to move. Albert grabbed the knife and bent the blade, but he was quickly struck alongside the head with an ax handle. While he was dazed, the inmates handcuffed him with his own handcuffs, bound his legs with rope and tape, and dragged him off to the electrical room.
"We cut off ears for souvenirs," Rodriguez told Albert, loudly enough that the others could hear, too. "And there's lots of ears in here!"
At 1:00 P.M., Lester Moczygemba, another maintenance supervisor with the same last name as his colleague, and another inmate, Ambrosio Martinez, returned to the maintenance department from theboiler room to dispose of a piece of metal. Upon entering the department Moczygemba noticed that the prison's maintenance truck had been pulled into the shop area, where the overhead door was closed and locked. He immediately thought it strange that the truck was parked there because vehicles were not normally allowed in that area without a specific reason, like moving supplies. As Moczygemba was looking around the area, Newbury came up behind him brandishing a flat piece of metal, about 12 inches in length and sharpened on both ends.
"You'd better stop while you're ahead," he said to Newbury as he pushed the inmate's hand away. Then Moczygemba turned toward Martinez and Newbury came up behind him and placed a handmade knife to his throat.
"I'm very serious," Newbury told him. "I don't want to hurt you, but I will if you don't lie down and cooperate."
Fearing for his life, Moczygemba complied and lay down on the floor. Newbury and Halprin then bound his hands and feet, placed a pillowcase over his head, and took him to the electrical room to join the others. As Moczygemba was being hauled off, Murphy attacked Martinez and stabbed him on his left ring finger with the homemade knife. Afterward, Rivas and Garcia bound Martinez's arms behind his back with duct tape and placed him with the others.
Satisfied that they had accounted for everyone whomight cause them problems, the seven escapees secured the electrical room door from the outside and set into motion the next phase of their daring escape plan.
Copyright © 2001 by Gary C. King Enterprises, Inc.