According to investigators, new information have emerged about how convicted killer Gonzalo Lopez escaped from a Texas prisoner bus and what he did before killing a family of five.
Lopez’s escape last month sparked one of the state’s largest inmate searches in history, with hundreds of authorities scouring the wooded region where he was thought to be hiding. The fugitive is accused of killing a family in their Leon County home last week, then dying in a firefight with authorities.
Lopez broke into a neighboring property just days before killing 66-year-old Mark Collins and his four grandkids, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst.
Collins and his grandchildren were spending the weekend at the family’s property outside of Centerville.
According to CNN interviews with neighboring locals, law enforcement officers did not appear to inform residents that there were signals of suspicious activity at the property next to the ranch. A Texas jail spokesperson said DNA testing was needed to establish it was Lopez who broke into the residence in answer to inquiries about why residents were not notified as soon as law police suspected a break-in.
According to Crime Stoppers of Houston director of victim services and advocate Andy Kahan, who met with the Collins family in the days following the killings, Mark Collins and his four grandkids were shot and stabbed to death.
Lopez stole the family’s truck after killing them and was promptly identified by investigators.
Collins and his grandsons were described by the family’s pastor, Steve Bezner, as a “wonderful family” that was “close-knit and of great faith.”
According to the state, other inmates provided a distraction.
According to investigators, the prisoner escaped on May 12 while being escorted to a medical appointment in Huntsville, Texas. Lopez, 46, was in a “separate, caged area of the bus, designated for high-risk offenders,” according to a statement from Texas DCJ. Lopez was serving two life sentences for capital murder, attempted capital murder, and aggravated abduction charges.
According to Hurst, as the bus approached Centerville, the 15 other inmates on board began making noise and distracting Lopez, allowing Lopez to complete his escape.
Lopez used a “prison-made knife and key” to break into the enclosed section.
Lopez and the driver exited the bus, while a second cop exited the back of the vehicle and approached the prisoner, according to DCJ. Lopez re-boarded the bus and drove a short distance, according to officials.
According to investigators, the officers shot out the back tires, leading Lopez to crash a short distance down the road. The inmate then bolted into the woods near Leon County’s Highway 7.
Lopez eluded police for three weeks while a big manhunt was underway for him. Throughout the first two weeks of the search, prison authorities held regular briefings on the activities, which included around 400 officers on the ground searching the woodland area where Lopez was thought to be hiding.