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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 12, 2001, New Braunfels, Texas New NFELSHerald-Zeitung —_ -w.;._—-—Las-— Vol. 150 No. 53 16 pages in 2 sections January 12, 2001 F RIDAY Serving Comal County since 1852 50 cents Escape Chronology This is a chronology of the hours leading up to the escape of seven heavily armed inmates from the Connally Unit in South Texas on Dec. 13. 11:20 a.m. — Six inmates decide to skip lunch in the prison mess hall and remain in the maintenance shop to eat food they’ve bought in the prison commissary. They also volunteer to wax the floors. Most of the prison guards leave so they won’t be in the way. 11:30 a.m. — A maintenance supervisor is struck in the head, and is bound and gagged. He is placed in the electrical room. The guard’s clothes are taken. 11:45 a.m. to about 1 p.m. — Inmate Michael Rodriguez goes into the prison yard, telling guards he has been assigned to pick up trash. In reality, he is a lookout. Back in the maintenance shop, which is out of sight of any guard towers, 10 employees and three inmates returning from lunch are overpowered. They are held hostage in the shop’s electrical room. Clothes and boots are taken from some of them. Meanwhile, George Rivas, who is believed to be the ringleader, constructs a plywood and cardboard shelter in the bed of a prison pickup truck. Calls likely were made to someone outside the prison to deliver getaway cars to a Wal-Mart in Kenedy. Inside the electrical room, the hostages barricade the door to prevent re-entry by the escapees. 1:05 p.m. — The prison’s time for its usual security check. A guard calls the maintenance department and asks to speak with a supervisor. An offender impersonates a supervisor and advises all inmates are accounted for. 1:15 p.m. — A call goes to the tower to tell guards a crew would be coming over shortly to install a video surveillance camera. 1:35 p.m. — Fire alarms go off in the maintenance department. A guard calls but gets no answer. He sends no one to investigate. 1:40 p.m. — Two inmates in civilian clothing and others take a prison utility cart from the shop to the rear gate. A guard on the ground is locked in the guard shack bathroom and then inmates yell up to the tower guard that they need to come up to install a new camera. He is overpowered and the tower’s weapons are seized. The three remaining inmates back in the maintenance shop are called and told it is safe to dave the pickup to the guard tower and load it with weapons. 1:50 p.m. — Inmates leave the prison. Minutes later, the tower guard frees himself and alerts authorities. 2 p.m. — The prison truck is found abandoned at the Wal-Mart in Kenedy. Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice serious incident review ll ^ JOSEPH GARCIA RANDY    LARRY    PATRICK    DONALD    GEORGE HALPRIN    HARPER    MURPHY JR. NEWBURY    RIVAS I J MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ The system has failed’ State report details prison escape that has Texas on edge K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Department of Public Safety Trooper Vaughan Pack of New Braunfels has the photos of the seven prison escapees mounted on his dashboard. Lawmen around the state and country are on the watch for the seven men. By Kelley Shannon Associated Press Writer AUSTIN (AP) — Seven escapees from a South Texas prison methodically overpowered prison employees over a 2 172-hour period, tying them up, taking their clothes and driving away unchallenged in a prison truck, according to a report released Thursday. Texas Department of Criminal Justice off icials blamed employees’ mistakes for allowing the convicts to execute their well-planned Dec. 13 escape from the maximum-security Connally Unit. “The system has failed,” said Gary Johnson, director of the TDCJ institu tional division. “It is our responsibility to discover how and why this tragedy occurred.” The gang is cjiarged in the Christmas Eve murder of an Irving police officer and remains on the loose. The report made several recommendations, including reviewing policies governing inmate movement; revising gate procedures to more specifically address identification rules; and ensuring that vehicles are inside the prison compound only as long as necessary for a specific job. Some prison employees may face disciplinary action, including dismissal, Johnson said. Tim Keith, warden of the prison 60 miles southeast of San Antonio, also may be disciplined. Johnson, addressing TDCJ board members, explained the breakout this way: The escape took place from 11:20 a.m. to 1:58 p.m., much of it during the quiet lunch period. In all, the group overpowered 13 prison employees. The gang began its escape in the maintenance shop, where six of the felons worked. The seventh joined them, somehow making his way undetected from the prison law library to the maintenance area. See ESCAPE/3A County bills get senator’s support Wentworth legislation to boost county authority By Ron Maloney Staff Writer State Senator Jeff Wentworth will sponsor legislation to give counties like Comal County more authority to draft ordinances. Pct. 2 Comal County Commissioner Jay Minikin said Thursday that Wentworth agreed to pursue a pair of bills that Comal County officials long have hoped to see. Officials of the various entities that make up the Alamo Area Council of Governments learned of Wentworths support on Monday, Minikin told Comal commissioners Thursday. Joe Morris, Wentworth’s deputy chief of staff, confirmed Thursday afternoon that staffers were drafting the bills for the senator. Wentworth was a Bexar County commissioner from 1976 to 1982. He said tile experience made him realize why counties should have such authority. “They need it, and they have for years and I’ve been supportive of their wishes,” Wentworth said. “I know from my experience that county commissioners get calls every day from voters requesting things they can't do anything about.” In the last session, Wentworth said, he secured passage of a bill he sponsored giving counties in priority groundwater management districts the authority to make water availability a condition of plat approval. That authority enabled Comal County in December to pass subdivision rules that enact that authority here. Now, Wentworth hopes to go a step further. “We’re going to try to get both of them passed,” the senator said of the bills now being prepared by his staff. One of the bills would grant — with “local option” or local voter approval — authority for county governments to write ordinances much like municipalities enjoy. See WENTWORTH/3A WENTWORTHRiver activities panel rallies behind wristband system By Jennifer Rodriguez Staff Writer A river use fee and wristband system could be the flagships of a list of recommendations the river activities committee would present to New Braunfels city council in less than two weeks. Committee members agreed that some version of a river use fee should be charged to visitors. They dropped the idea of an exit fee for a wristband system. Tube rental businesses would buy wristbands from the city and then collect the fee money from their customers. Anyone who rents a tube, raft or kayak would have to pay the fee and wear a wristband to prove it. “I think a river use fee is much better than a river exit fee, because everybody will pay the same,” chairman Kevin Webb said. But he said he wanted the committee to look at balancing the weight of the fee on all the businesses that benefit from tourist dollars. “What I’m interested in is the most fair way to do this to where not just the last businesses involved (pays the fee),” Webb said. Committee member Rodney Fischer, a local businessman, said that sometimes the nature of a business required special fee levying. “We know a lot about taxes,” Fischer said. “My issue is this: Year after year we have environmental stuff — we have to double wall and triple wall, pay environmental taxes. My point being, sometimes for the nature of what your business does.. .that’s a cost of us doing business in the field, and if you don’t want to pay it, you have to get out of the business.” But one of the problems with the wristband system is that no other businesses are involved, Webb said. He said less than IO percent of his company’s business was from the nonrental business. That meant his business paid the fee to take care of trash and row dy behavior on the river that other businesses had a hand in, Webb said. “I’ve paid the (fee) for (the river user) to do that whole thing,” Webb said.See RIVER/4A Hill Country author sharing more ghostly tales Book Signing By Jennifer Rodriguez Staff Writer K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung Hill Country writer Bert Wall has just published his latest work, “Ghostly Chills: The Devil’s Backbone 2.” Somewhere in the Devil’s Backbone country, author Bert Wall is unpacking a shipment of his latest work, “Ghostly Chills: The Devil’s Backbone 2.” He will sign copies of the $ 11.50 book from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at the Round-Up Restaurant, 12815 Farm-to-Market 306 Devil’s Backbone is the four-mile forma tion that juts across the landscape along Highway 32 between San Marcos and Blanco. After spending a lifetime fascinated by the supernatural, Wall decided to pass on some of those stories. “It’s not too much different from the Bert Wall will sign copies of “Ghostly Chills: The Devil’s Backbone 2” from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the Round-Up Restaurant, 12815 Farm-to-Market Road 306. first,” Wall said. “Most of the stories are still about and around the Devil’s Backbone. We do have one story that brings the Wimberley area into it, but it’s still in the Texas Hill Country.” Wall said he liked to pluck fresh stories from the mouths of new acquaintances and to pull old favorites from childhood. Already working on his third book, Wall is talking to a producer who might use his stories for a cable television show. “As a writer, you kind of shy away from it because you want to write,” Wall said. “But I’ve been around it so long, if they need me, I’m available.... There are not to many of those ascot-wearing, pipe smoking writers anymore. It doesn’t work, and the ascot gets eaten up by moths because you can’t pay your bills.” Book signing events give him a chance to meet people apd say hello to friends. “I enjoy them,” Wall said. “And quite frankly, I’ll have people bring me stories in the middle of a signing.” Inside Abby........................ ......5A Classifieds................... ...4-8B Comics..................... ......8A Crossword................. ......5A Forum.......................... .......6A Local/Metro................. .......4A Movies......................... .......5A Obituaries.................... .......3A Sports........................ ...1-2B Today.......................... .......2A Stocks............................. www.herald-zeitung com Key Code 76 ;