January 22, 2001

Ithaca Police Investigate Texas Fugitive Sighting

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Witnesses at a local restaurant on Friday said they recognized two of the seven Texas fugitives wanted for the Dec. 24 murder of a police officer in Texas.

The Ithaca Police Department reported that an employee at Rogan’s restaurant on Route 96B, south of Ithaca, identified the two fugitives at 7:45 a.m. Friday. Patrick Murphy and Larry Harper would have been driving an older brown station wagon, according to a police bulletin.

On Dec. 13, seven prisoners escaped from a Kenedy, Texas, prison. They are implicated in the holdup of a sporting goods store, which led to the murder of Texas police officer Aubrey Hawkins on Dec. 24.

Before the investigation into the sighting was complete, Ithaca Police Chief Richard Basile told the Ithaca Journal on Saturday that “we’re taking [the report] very seriously … we don’t want to gamble.”

However, a source close to the investigation commented yesterday that the affair was now considered unfounded, a rumor.

After watching the TV program “America’s Most Wanted”, a Rogan’s employee called in the sighting of the two fugitives Friday morning, adding that she thought they had visited the restaurant the previous day as well, Rogan’s manager Bernard Collins said.

The fugitives are believed to be armed and extremely dangerous, carrying with them an arsenal of over 40 firearms, according to the authorities.

“[Police] are playing it up as if they weren’t here, but I’ll bet there’s a good chance they are,” said Collins, who was on duty at the restaurant at the time the two arrived.

A $500,000 reward is offered by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for information leading to the seven fugitives’ capture.

Since their escape, a task force of federal, state and area law enforcement agencies has fielded more than 2,000 tips regarding possible sightings of the fugitives in nearly a dozen states, including New York. The Rogan’s employee called a toll free tips line to the New York City Police, who then alerted local officers.

At the restaurant, fear rose after the fugitives left and employees and patrons became aware that those who had entered may be among the seven fugitives.

“After they left, it got kind of scary. Federal Marshalls, State Police and Ithaca Police showed up and took our security tapes to look at,” Collins said.

But, Collins says, the restaurant is taking the event in stride. “It certainly got interesting, but we’ve have our fair share of craziness here,” he said, warily remembering a bomb threat that occurred four years ago, allegedly placed by students from Ithaca College.

Archived article by Yoni Levine