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Four—“Fred, what the hell are you doing?”

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Chapter Four

“Fred, what the hell are you doing?”

—Father O’Brien, hostage

After ordering all but the most essential civilian employees out of the Walls and clearing the yards and inside compound of all inmates by returning them immediately to their cells, Warden Husbands responded to one of Fred Carrasco’s demands to “get hold of Father O’Brien, and have him come up here so we can talk to him and negotiate through him.”1

Husbands, with O’Brien already at his side, told

Carrasco the priest was on his way. However, Carrasco had conditions. The Catholic clergyman was to remove his religious collar and have his hands cuffed in front of him. Turning to the Father while Carrasco waited, the warden explained the conditions. They were no problem for O’Brien.

“Now you don’t have to go up there,” the warden advised the priest as he briefly reiterated the Texas

Department of Corrections policy regarding hostagetaking—a policy that all prison workers, as part of their job orientation, have to review and sign. 2

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Two—“Let’s get the hell out of here.”

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Chapter Two

“Let’s get the hell out of here.”

—Steve Roach, inmate

The Texas Legislature created the Windham School

District in the Texas Department of Corrections in

1968. It was subject to the certification requirements and regulations of the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education. Its purpose was to provide educational and vocational opportunities for prison inmates that would help them when and if they returned to the general population. Attendance at once-a-week, six-hour classes was required for inmates having less than a fifth-grade education and it was voluntary for others. At the Walls Unit, the

Windham group of about fifteen teachers and librarians was housed on the 11,250 square-foot top floor of a rectangular, three-story building made of reinforced concrete faced with masonry bricks with steel roof trusses. It was, unintentionally, a fortress.

The 167-by-67 foot area was remodeled in 1972 from an auditorium into the educational facility. About fifty percent of the room’s interior was classroom, thirty percent was library, and the remaining twenty percent—which divided the two larger rooms—was

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Eleven—“We have more time.”

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Chapter Eleven

“We have more time.”

—TDC Director, Jim Estelle, Jr.

That meal must have totally satiated Fred Carrasco and induced some sort of temporary amnesia.

Amazingly and inexplicably, there was neither further conversation nor demands for weapons nor threats of killing hostages for the rest of Thursday night. Carrasco did not call Estelle nor did he call

Montemayor. And there was no way those in the

Think Tank wanted to renew the day’s previous discussion. Though glad to still be alive, the hostages were, to say the least, confused. The TDC director could not explain it to the media. He would only say,

“We have more time.” Prison spokesman Ron Taylor said there would be no more moves at all until 10:00 a.m. the next day, Friday. “We asked the inmates if they were agreeable to break off negotiations. They were, so we did,” Taylor said. He called the suspension of negotiations “a good sign” and added it had allowed prison officials to “buy time.”1 And time was the commodity Estelle and the Texas

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Twenty-one—“I’m the executioner.”

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Chapter Twenty-one

July 31, 1974 • Day Eight

“I’m the executioner.”

—Fred Carrasco, hostage-taker

Week One of the Eleven Days in Hell would end at one o’clock as this eighth day and second week of horror began for the hostages.

Federico Carrasco was contacted on Wednesday morning five minutes after his eight o’clock deadline for complying with the demand for bulletproof vests.

He was called about what Ruben Montemayor called the “final offer” that Director Estelle had handed him at seven-fifteen that morning.

According to Ron Taylor, Carrasco “appeared to be sleepy or groggy”1 and he made no mention of his previous threat to blow up his hostages. The only thing he seemed to be interested in was ordering breakfast—pastry, donuts, cupcakes, orange juice, prune juice, jelly, toast and, of course, the daily newspapers.

Contact between the library and the warden’s office resumed at nine o’clock. The hostages requested clean clothes, a deck of cards, a portable radio, batteries, trash bags, ice, a jar of instant tea, lemon, sugar, coffee creamer, and coffee cups. Taylor, based

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Seven—“He will kill those people.”

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Chapter Seven

July 25, 1974 • Day Two

“He will kill those people.”

—Father O’Brien, hostage

Somewhere around one o’clock on Thursday morning,

Father O’Brien made his last trip to the prison library.

Fred Carrasco offered to let him sleep at home, “Or, if he wants to sleep here, it’s up to him.” 1 O’Brien returned to the third-floor complex, bringing more sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and minor medications such as aspirin and antacids. At least three times during the preceding twelve hours he had walked in and out, a courier of supplies and messages.

Each time he left, he promised the women he would come back. And each time he left, the wily Carrasco made the hostages move to another part of the library so the priest could not tell authorities exactly where they were. But the ever-suspicious Cuevas and

Dominguez were convinced that O’Brien was spying on them.

O’Brien was indeed giving the authorities as much information as he could. He told them more about

Bobby Heard, who was being constantly taunted by his captors with comments like, “Why don’t you run to the attic again, Heard?”2 He reported on the mirrors

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