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Tomball family files wrongful death lawsuit after escaped Texas inmate kills five

Six months ago, escaped Texas inmate Gonzalo Lopez shot and killed five members of the Collins family, authorities say.

CENTERVILLE, Texas — Six months after a Tomball family was murdered in Centerville by escaped Texas inmate Gonzalo Lopez, relatives of that family are now pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

According to the Leon County Sheriff's Office, four boys -- 18-year-old Waylon Collins, 16-year-old Carson Collins, 11-year-olds Hudson Collins and Bryson Collins -- were visiting their grandfather, 66-year-old Mark Collins, on his ranch off Highway 7.

At some point, the family came across Lopez, who then shot them to death, according to the autopsy report. After, he stole their truck and made his way to a rural area near San Antonio where he was later killed by police during a shootout, authorities said.

The Collins family is now pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against TDCJ.

The Leon County District Attorney's Office informed KAGS that it cannot comment on the case at this time.

Since then, Centerville residents shared with KAGS how a path of fear remains since the tragedy. One woman said she left for good because of terror.

"Right after, I guess all this needed or about the same time I had moved out of my home and moved to another city, " said former Centerville resident Brandy Mutschler. "I would hate to ever go back there, that's the only way you can really describe it is sheer terror." 

Mutschler praised the sheriff's office for teaming up with U.S. Marshals, the FBI, Texas DPS troopers and other local law enforcement to expand their search, but said it all went downhill when they opened up Highway 7, which leads up to the Collins' ranch and other Centerville residents.

TDCJ said they believed Lopez was still in the area and opened up the highway to expand their search for him. Mutschler said this made residents like herself believe they were safe.

She said they made residents believe they were safe when they opened the road.

"The amount of manpower kind of just diminished and the last week or so whenever they opened up the roads, the notifications stopped too," said Mutschler.

Still, she puts the Collins' death on the TDCJ, saying the responsibility should be shouldered by law enforcement.

"It didn't have to happen," she said. "I do hold the blame on TDCJ."

A resident who asked to remain anonymous because of his close affiliation with members of the TDCJ said, "I don't I feel like this was higher ups area. The people over TDCJ, I guess your Marshals," he stated.

Yet, they both agree that the Centerville community has changed forever since the tragedy.

"I just don't feel like it's gonna be the same anymore," Mutschler said. "It's just a sense of fear and sadness that I don't feel like is ever gonna go away, It's not the same anymore."

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