CENTERVILLE, Texas (KBTX) – A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety tells KBTX that five people were found murdered in Leon County near the area where escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez was last seen in May. A large law enforcement presence is in the area including a helicopter.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice says law enforcement received a call from an individual who was concerned after not hearing from an elderly relative. Officers arrived at the residence and discovered the bodies of two adults and three children.
A 1999 white Chevrolet Silverado, license plate DPV4520, was missing from the residence. TDCJ says escaped inmate, Gonzalo Lopez, may be driving the vehicle and may be armed.
Highway 7 is again closed west of Centerville.
State prison officials say they are planning to update the media Thursday night on the search for escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez.
On social media, several Centerville residents said there was a sudden increase in law enforcement activity in a rural area west of Centerville not far from where the escape happened. KBTX has reached out to TDCJ officials for more details but said nothing could be confirmed nor released at this time. A briefing would be provided later this evening, officials said, but an exact time was not given.
Lopez, 46, escaped from a TDCJ prison bus on Highway 7 west of Centerville on May 12 as they were headed to Huntsville for a medical appointment.
“He’s crafty,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst said last month. “He’s done this before down in South Texas in Webb County, he hid out for almost nine days.”
Earlier this week, authorities investigated a possible sighting of Lopez on Highway 21 in Madison County, but they later determined it wasn’t him, although the man who was reported by a concerned citizen ran off into a wooded area and was never located.
Lopez, who was serving a life sentence, was being transported to a medical appointment in a caged area of the bus designated for high-risk inmates.
As Lopez was being transported, he somehow freed himself from his hand and leg restraints, cut through the expanded metal of the cage, and crawled out the bottom, TDCJ said. He then attacked the driver, who stopped the bus and got into an altercation with Lopez, the department said. They both eventually got off the bus.
At some point the driver was stabbed and wounded in the hand and chest, said Jason Clark, the department’s chief of staff. He said the driver’s wounds weren’t life-threatening.
A second officer at the rear of the bus then exited and approached Lopez, who got back on the bus and started driving down the road, the department said.
The officers fired at Lopez and disabled the bus by shooting a rear tire, the department said. The bus then traveled a short distance before leaving the roadway, where Lopez got out and ran into the woods, according to the department.
Sixteen prisoners were aboard the bus, but no one else escaped, the department said.
A $50,000 reward for Lopez’s capture is still being offered.
Leon County has roughly 16,000 residents and is about 50 miles north of the state’s prison headquarters in Huntsville.
Copyright 2022 KBTX. All rights reserved.