Pastor Bezner and close family friends gathered at a church in Houston Northwest this afternoon to talk about the devastating loss of Mark Collins, 66, and his four grandchildren to fugitive prisoner Gonzalo Lopez.
The Carson brothers, 16, Hudson, 11, and Waylon Collins, 18, and their cousin Bryson, 11, were all killed. Waylon had just graduated from Tomball High School a few days ago.
“They were bright, shining stars,” said Harris Co. detective. Sheriff’s David Crain, close family friend. “What happened to the Collins family is unspeakable.”
In a statement released on Friday, Tomball ISD Superintendent, Dr. Martha Salazar-Zamora confirmed that four of her students and their grandfather “were taken from us on Thursday by a fugitive from Texas near Centerville.”
“The loss of a student, for whatever reason, is heartbreaking, but to lose in such a tragic way is torturous,” Salazar-Zamora wrote in part. “There are no words. During this difficult time, the Tomball community continues to gather after the tragic loss of four students.”
On Friday afternoon, hundreds of people moved by the Collins family’s deaths gathered at the Tomball ISD baseball diamond for a vigil. There were tears, prayers and many hugs.
The league confirmed that the eldest child, Waylon, was a Tomball Little League baseball referee.
Texas Rangers investigators are trying to figure out how the Texas inmate Gonzalo Lopez, who escaped, was able to escape an intense three-week investigation.
It was learned on Friday that Lopez broke into the house next to the family ranch, sources say on ABC13.
Lopez has managed to escape hundreds of pursuers from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice since escaping a cage and restrictions as he was transported by bus to a doctor’s appointment on May 12. The department created a perimeter in County Leon near Centerville. The search was completed as the days passed and Lopez is believed to have left the area. A burglary earlier this week revealed that was not the case.
According to ABC13 sources, authorities picked up fingerprints on a house along Highway 7 West I-45 that matched Lopez’s. Camouflage clothes and food were missing from the refrigerator. ABC13 had access to the property. He is at the ranch where Mark Collins and his four grandchildren, his brothers Willon, Carson and Hudson, and their cousin Bryson were killed.
“I do not know if they ever realized it. I feel that if Mark had realized that he was within a day or two of being in possession, he would never have exposed these children to this danger.” said family friend David Crane.
While the escape and early search was widely known, residents told ABC3 that no warnings were issued or advised this week to stay alert or stay away from the area. They believe that more could have been done.
“We have to go back to the drawing board. At the end of the day, we will do an incident review,” said Jason Clark, Head of TDCJ.
The five were killed Thursday afternoon when they went to the family ranch for a summer vacation. Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the family had nothing to do with Lopez.
Prison officials say Lopez escaped from a shuttle bus to Leon County on May 12. County Leon is halfway between Houston and Dallas.
Following the Collins family killings, investigators located Lopez late Thursday night in Atascosa County, south of San Antonio, more than 250 miles from where he escaped.
Lopez, a 46-year-old convicted murderer serving a life sentence, died when law enforcement located a truck with a license plate that matched that belonging to the family of those killed.
There was a brief chase where officers deployed pin strips, sources said.
“He went down there and hit a telephone pole. He bounced and got off and crashed into a telephone pole and a fence. He got out of his truck, fired extra rounds, at least four police officers responded,” said Atascosa County Sheriff David Soward. adding that no officer was injured.
Clark said Lopez was armed with an AR-15 rifle and a pistol that authorities say may have been removed from the family’s farm cabin.
As investigators were searching for Lopez in other parts of the state, they learned that a worried member of the victims’ family called police for a welfare check, leading them to find their bodies.
The family’s white Chevrolet Silverado was gone, sparking a chain of events Thursday night.
Officials believe that in the last three weeks, Lopez hid in the woods and managed to go to homes for water, food and change of clothes.
Because of the escape and the danger he posed, Lopez was among the 10 most wanted fugitives in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
On May 12, officials said Lopez was taken from the Hughes unit in Gatesville, Texas, to the Estelle unit in Huntsville for a medical appointment when he escaped.
The TDCJ, which oversees the state prisons, said that because of his criminal history and restrictive housing status, Lopez was being transferred to a separate, caged area of the bus, designed for high-risk inmates.
During the transport, Lopez allegedly got out of his reins, cut the expanded metal and crawled from the bottom of the cage.
It was then that law enforcement officials say he attacked the bus driver.
The policeman reportedly stopped the bus and got into an argument with Lopez. The two finally got off the bus.
Officials said a second police officer stepped out of the back door of the bus and tried to approach Lopez.
However, Lopez reportedly got back on the bus and started walking away.
The two police officers shot the detainee, causing the bus to deactivate when a bullet hit the rear tire.
The bus then drove a short distance and veered off the road before Lopez got out and ran into the woods off Highway 7 in County Leon, officials said.
Clark said a “serious incident review” would be conducted for the escape.
“It’s our duty to go back to find out how he escaped, how he hit our security protocols to leave this transport vehicle,” Clark said.
The criminal history of Gonzalo Lopez
In 1996, Lopez was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault and sentenced to two years in prison. In 2006, he was convicted of murder and aggravated abduction in Hidalgo County, which borders Mexico in southern Texas, and was sentenced to life in prison, according to the TDCJ.
In addition, he received a second life sentence after being convicted of attempted murder in Webb County, another border county containing Texas Laredo, in 2007.
Officials said Lopez was linked to the Mexican mafia and had links to the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Gonzalo Lopez dead: Mark Collins, grandsons Bryson, Waylon, Hudson, Carson identified as Centerville, Texas victims Source link Gonzalo Lopez dead: Mark Collins, grandsons Bryson, Waylon, Hudson, Carson identified as Centerville, Texas victims