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Escaped killer dead in Texas, officials say

One of the most dramatic manhunts in Texas history ended Thursday night when a convicted murderer who escaped from a prison bus last month was killed – hours only after he became the prime suspect in the murder of five people in a home earlier in the day, authorities said.

Convict Gonzalo Artemio Lopez was ‘captured and deceased’, Leon County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Thursday night. He had been the prime suspect in the murder of four children and an adult whose bodies were discovered Thursday at a house near which he had escaped in May.

When he escaped from a prison bus on May 12, Mr Lopez, 46, was serving time for crimes including the murder of a man with a pickaxe. After his escape, he ruled the state most wanted listand authorities offered $50,000 in exchange for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

The murders of the five people most likely took place on Thursday afternoon and the home – near Centerville, a city halfway between Houston and Dallas – was within a perimeter where law enforcement had been looking for Mr. Lopez since his escape, Jason Clark, the chief of staff for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told reporters at a press conference. The house was a weekend residence used by a Houston family and had been searched several times since the escape, he said.

Mr. Clark said authorities had evidence that Mr. Lopez broke into the home and carried out the murders, but he did not provide details or say how the victims were killed. Mr. Lopez is believed to have used the missing vehicle, a white Chevrolet Silverado, to exit the area, he added.

The bus from which Mr Lopez escaped last month had transported him and 15 other detainees to a medical appointment. As he approached Centerville, a town halfway between Houston and Dallas on Interstate 45, he broke free from his chains, attacked the driver and drove the bus a mile before losing control and escape into a cow pasture.

Hundreds of local and state law enforcement officers participated in a manhunt using horses, police dogs and helicopters.

“This is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest manhunts in recent history for an escaped Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate,” said Robert Hurst, an official with the public information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, days after the escape, adding that Mr Lopez was a “very dangerous person”.

Credit…Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Mr. Lopez escaped while being driven from a jail in Gatesville, Texas, to a medical appointment in the city of Huntsville, authorities said. He managed to free himself from his handcuffs and make his way into the driver’s compartment, where he began to fight the driver.

After the driver stopped the bus and the two men got out, Mr. Lopez stabbed the driver in the left hand and chest, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Another bus officer shot both rear tires. Then Mr. Lopez returned to the bus and managed to drive it for a mile before losing control. When the bus stopped, Mr. Lopez ran into a wooded area, where he disappeared.

In addition to his murder conviction, Mr. Lopez has had eight other convictions since 1994, including attempted capital murder, kidnapping and three separate counts of aggravated assault.