TOMBALL, Texas — The Texas family members who police believe were killed Thursday by an escaped inmate with alleged Mexican mafia ties have been identified as three brothers from a Houston suburb, along with a cousin and their grandfather.
Family friends confirmed on Friday that 66-year-old Mark Collins was killed along with his three grandchildren at the family’s ranch as the group prepared to go on a fishing trip. He was with his grandchildren: 11-year-old Bryson and his three cousins, 11-year-old Hudson, 16-year-old Carson, and 18-year-old Waylon.
The eldest graduated from high school in the town of Tomball last week, where he played for the baseball team. He also served as a referee for a local little league.
“We are devastated by the loss of our dear family members at the family ranch in Centerville, Texas,” the family said in a statement Friday, before asking for privacy. “These precious people who have loved and were loved by so many will never be forgotten. The impact on her family and friends cannot be overstated.”
Mourners poured in and out of a vigil set up Friday at the Tomball High School baseball field, where Waylon Collins played. People were seen crying as they paid their respects to the family.
A man wearing the hat and shirt of Tomball High School’s Cougars baseball team offered people water and hugged passers-by. He didn’t want to give his name to the press, but said through tears, “I watched these guys grow up.”
Matthew Barnby, 19, knelt near a second memorial and paid his respects near the Javalinas Little League team jersey for which Bryson played. “It just really hurts,” he said.
Barnby said he played junior high school football with Waylon for three years. He called him Collins.
“He was spectacular because he moved. Every time you’ve given him the ball, he’s traveled at least 15 yards. Everyone loved being around Collins,” he said.
The family was killed just hours before Gonzalo Lopez, who went missing in May after escaping a prison bus, stealing a pickup truck and eventually being captured by authorities in a dramatic shooting south of San Antonio, over 200 miles from the Collins family’s cabin , was killed .
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office, which responded to the cabin, did not name the victims Friday. But they provided more details on how the gruesome attack unfolded. Authorities believe Lopez attacked the 66-year-old grandfather before attacking the home’s other residents – including the 18-year-old and three minors.
Jason Clark, the Texas Department of Justice’s chief of staff, told The Daily Beast that any motive for the gruesome murder was “unclear.” But authorities say he then “stole clothing, firearms and a vehicle” before fleeing. It wasn’t immediately clear if Lopez was already inside when the family entered it for a fishing trip on Thursday, neighbors told The Daily Beast – or if the occupant later broke in.
A family member of Mark Collins told The Daily Beast on Friday that the grandfather was an “enthusiastic hunter” who passed that passion “on to his children and grandchildren,” noting they “hunt and fish often” at the ranch.
“The grandkids loved going up there,” added the family member, who declined to be named out of respect for his other relatives. Referring to Thursday’s fateful trip, he said the event was “always on the schedule.”
“[Mark] wouldn’t have taken the kids if he thought it would still be an issue,” he said, noting that Bryson’s 9-year-old brother also wanted to attend the family day out but “for some reason couldn’t.”
The family member also expressed outrage at the circumstances leading to the deaths of five of his loved ones, stating that Lopez’s escape and his three-week stay on the run “should never have happened.”
A family member who works at SSC Farm, a business outside of Houston that offers horseback riding lessons, told The Daily Beast that they would not comment further because “we need the space and time to grieve right now.”
“Life has been turned upside down. No words can describe the pain we are going through. Please keep the Collins clan in your prayers,” said Susie Collins, a family member, in a Friday post on Facebook.
Authorities said the 46-year-old inmate, who was serving a life sentence for murder and attempted murder in 2006, escaped on foot at 12 into a cow pasture. Cellphone video obtained by KAGS-TV showed the moment Lopez crashed the transfer bus – which was supposed to be taking him to a doctor’s appointment with over a dozen other passengers – and fled into the woods.
“He received a life sentence for murder in which he killed a man with a pickaxe, and he was also convicted of attempted murder for shooting a police officer with a gun,” said Robert Hurst, spokesman for the Texas Department of Justice , after Lopez disappeared, noting that the inmate allegedly linked to the Mexican mafia was “very dangerous.”
For weeks, authorities unsuccessfully searched the Leon County area for Lopez, who also earned a spot on Texas’ Most Wanted list $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
But on Thursday, the Texas Department of Justice said there was a pause in the case when authorities found the four children and their grandfather in the cabin off Highway 7 after receiving a call for a welfare check. A white 1999 Chevy Silverado was also missing from the home, which authorities believe Lopez fled the scene after killing the family, who had arrived at the home just hours earlier.
Hours later, deputies from the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office spotted the same truck in Jourdanton, prompting them to lay road spikes to deflate the truck’s tires and crash Lopez into a tree. Lopez refused to surrender, then pointed a gun out the window and started shooting, authorities said. Deputies returned fire and “quickly shot and killed Lopez,” Clark said Thursday.
While Lopez fired “multiple rounds,” no officers were injured in the incident.
“The agency is conducting a review of the serious incidents related to the circumstances of the escape,” Clark added to The Daily Beast. “We will make any changes to prevent an escape like this from happening again.”
The Tomball Independent School District acknowledged the loss in a Friday letter to parents received by The Daily Beast, stating that “The loss of a student for any reason is heartbreaking, but to lose four so tragically is agonizing and ours.” Thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of these beloved students and grandfathers.”
Tomball Little League President Brian Quinn confirmed to The Daily Beast that Waylon, the eldest child, was a referee for their youth sports teams. “Our baseball community is heartbroken to lose a colleague and friend,” he said.
Kristen Crook, a local who knows the Collins family, said she spoke to a family member who was understandably “at a loss and completely devastated and still in shock”.
“Susie and Matthew [Collins] got married at my aunt’s house”, Crook,
who also started a GoFundMe on behalf of the family, The Daily Beast said. “This is a very tight-knit community and everyone knows everyone.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/gonzalo-lopez-killed-waylon-collins-brothers-cousin-grandpa-texas-police-say?source=articles&via=rss Gonzalo Lopez killed Waylon Collins, brothers, cousin, grandpa, Texas police say