Authorities say three brothers, a cousin and their grandfather were killed by Gonzalo Lopez, convicted of the killer, who was on the run for more than three weeks.
THOMBOL, Texas – A family in the Tombola area is experiencing unimaginable grief after five family members, including four Tomball ISD studentswere found murdered in a house near Centerville.
According to the Leon County Sheriff, the victims were killed by prisoner Gonzalo Lopez. The convict for more than three weeks was on the run.
Four boys visited their 66-year-old grandfather Mark Collins on his ranch near Highway 7. Three were brothers: 18-year-old Waylan Collins, 16-year-old Carson and 11-year-old Hudson. The fourth boy was identified as 11-year-old Bryson Collins, a cousin.
“These kids were bright stars, we coached them in baseball,” said a longtime family friend David Crane, holding back tears. “These next days will be difficult for all of us.”
Waylan had just graduated from Tomball High School where he played baseball. He and his younger brothers were the only children of Chris and Misty Collins. She is a lecturer at Tomball ISD.
The family also issued a statement Friday night.
“We are devastated by the loss of our dear family members at a family ranch in Centerville, Texas,” the statement said. “These precious people who were loved and loved by many will never be forgotten.”
Andy Kahan of Houston’s Crime Stoppers read a statement at a news conference and said their pain was unimaginable.
“I just want to ask everyone to pray for them, to virtually hug,” Kahan said. “They have an incredibly long, emotionally tiring, exhausting journey ahead of them.”
He said the family has already received condolences from around the world.
“When something like this happens, your heart breaks – as a mother, you just can’t imagine such a loss,” said Tiffany Wimpy, Tomball’s father.
She said the victims were her best friend’s cousins.
“Just knowing what torture they’re going through – I can’t even imagine, you know?” said Rachel Bray, another Tombola mom. “Parents, it’s just … I don’t know what I could go on with.”
WATCH: Full press conference
The Centerville Ranch was used as a weekend home for hunting and other activities. It’s only about half a mile from where Lopez escaped. Neighbors and other residents dropped flowers, balloons and teddy bears to honor the victims.
Hours after the bodies were found, Lopez was killed in a shootout with police in Atascos County, south of San Antonio.
Tomball ISD sent the following letter to the parents about the death of the students:
“Losing a student for any reason is heartbreaking, but losing four in such a tragic way is painful, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of these beloved students and grandparents.
“We ask you to pray and support these families who need us most at this time. We share a special bond at Tomball and understand that it will personally affect many students and families in our small community. ”
Tomball ISD schools are closed for the summer, but counties said grief counselors will be on hand to help those who may need them.
Tomball Little League also released the statement because Waylan Collins was the referee there.
“We hear with deep sadness about the tragedy in the Tomball community. We mourn the loss of these lives and pray for their family and all who knew them. One of the children was a referee in the Tomball Little League. Our baseball community is heartbroken to lose a colleague and friend.
On the topic: Escaped convicted killer Gonzalo Lopez died after a shootout with officers south of San Antonio, says TDCJ
Authorities said the victims arrived at the home on Thursday. They think they were killed on Thursday afternoon because they were seen earlier in the morning.
Their bodies were found around 6pm after a concerned family member called and said they could not call them.
A TDCJ spokesman said Lopez stole several weapons and a truck from the house before heading to Jourdanten, where he was killed.
He said they had searched and cleaned the house several times since Lopez escaped from the prison bus last month. Lopez left on May 12, dropping his shackles and cutting through a metal barrier before stabbing a correctional officer and leaving on foot after the prison bus he took on crashed.
The search for the 46-year-old was centered in Centralville, Texas, two hours north of Houston.
The TDCJ is reviewing its protocols to determine how Lopez was able to leave. They believe he was in the woods near Centerville, hiding and breaking into property to steal food, water and clothes.
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