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Confusion over who's investigating Collins' family murders

Leon Co. Sheriff, Texas DPS point to each other as lead agency
Posted at 9:21 PM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-11 01:33:35-04

CENTERVILLE, Texas — Nearly a month after he first escaped a TDCJ prison transport bus in Centerville, the Gonzalo Lopez saga has been ongoing, with seemingly more questions arising than answers.

25 News spent time on Friday afternoon at the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

It’s evident that investigating the Collins' murders is taking a toll on the officers.

Leadership told 25 News that they have been writing their lengthy incident reports on the case all day, every day.

The sheriff’s office declined to provide those reports, however, noting that they are not in charge of the investigation.

Rather, they insisted the Department of Public Safety's Texas Ranger division has had authority over the investigation. However, that’s not what DPS has told the public, noting instead that their department is only assisting.

25 News reached out to former police officer and Sam Houston State University criminology expert Dr. Jay Coons, who noted that this conflict isn’t unusual for a big investigation.

“Especially in the south, to have a larger agency at a higher level of government come in and assume on a case is a risky venture," he said.

Coons said he recalls a shooting investigation from his own law enforcement career in Harris County where such a scenario played out.

“I got there, I got my detectives there ready to help, and I saw the sheriff’s office commander talking with the chief of police," Coons said. "And they were both telling each other, ‘This is your scene! What do you want us to do?’ ‘No no, this is your scene, not mine. What do you want us to do?”

A new piece of information came through on Friday concerning the convicted killer's prison record. In his 16 years of incarceration, Lopez had been re-housed in eight different Texas prison units across the state.

Coons said this could be due to healthcare reasons, a change in prison programming, or Lopez's Mexican Mafia gang affiliation.

“They might start making contacts with other gang members, facilitating that contact, starting to get organized," Coons said. "So I wouldn’t doubt that TDCJ, through the classification system and their intelligence division, would act to keep these people separate, keep them on the move.”

Coons says often prisoners who exhibit good behavior can be moved to less secure units – including murderers. In Lopez’s case, however, Coons doubted the convict would be moved to a low-security prison.

TDCJ measures security on a scale of G1 to G5, G5 housing the most dangerous offenders, according to their handbook. Lopez was housed at prisons with a max level of G3, G4 and G5.