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TDCJ ends active search for escaped murderer in Leon County, broadening investigation

Highway 7 is reopened near Centerville after being closed for more than a week.
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 3:56 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice say the active ground and air search for Gonzalo Lopez in Leon County has concluded and Highway 7 has reopened near Centerville.

Officials termed their continuing search as a “new, expanded phase,” but say some personnel will remain in the county to conduct strategic searches outside the original search perimeter. In a release, TDCJ says “renewed focus by OIG, Texas Rangers, and U.S. Marshals is to leave no stone unturned as they follow leads and track Lopez’s whereabouts.”

In a Friday afternoon press conference, TDCJ spokesperson Robert Hurst said the search would now be considered “statewide, and as far as we can go to get [Lopez] back into custody.” Hurst continued that people in Leon County impacted by the search could return to their normal routine, but should contact local law enforcement if they see things out of the ordinary.

The exhaustive search continued in Leon County for more than a week after 46-year-old Lopez escaped from a prison transport bus on May 12 while being taken to a medical appointment in Huntsville.

Previously, officials said they were prepared to continue the search in Leon County through the weekend, despite inclement weather forecasted overnight Saturday into Sunday.

“Anyone who has knowledge of Lopez’s location should come forward,” said Inspector General Cris Love. “Those found to be helping or harboring him not only will face arrest and prosecution, but I believe they are putting themselves in danger. Lopez has a complete disregard for human life and will do what it takes to avoid capture. We will take this investigation where ever it leads us until Lopez is back in custody.”

Residents living inside the search perimeter the past week are glad to be able to get back to normal life without check points. But, they aren’t fully relieved.

“I think we’re all hoping and praying that some hard evidence of some sort can clarify that he is not here in Leon county anymore,” Melanie Tieperman said. “Can we let our kids stay at home by themselves now? Can we leave them in the backyard to play without standing guard over them like we have been the past 7 days.”

The reward for Gonzalo Lopez remains at $50,000. He’s an Hispanic male, about 6 feet tall, 190 pounds and last seen wearing his white prison uniform.

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