Investigators speak about film based on Arizona crime spree

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2 investigators involved in tracking the Tison Gang speak about an upcoming film based on the crime spree. (Source: Epic Pictures/3TV/CBS 5) 2 investigators involved in tracking the Tison Gang speak about an upcoming film based on the crime spree. (Source: Epic Pictures/3TV/CBS 5)
The move opens on Sept. 22. (Source: Epic Pictures) The move opens on Sept. 22. (Source: Epic Pictures)
Bill Richardson, a retired Arizona law officer, was part of the elite, multi-agency task force formed by then Governor Bruce Babbitt to catch the killers. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Bill Richardson, a retired Arizona law officer, was part of the elite, multi-agency task force formed by then Governor Bruce Babbitt to catch the killers. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Retired Coconino County Lt. Tom Brawley headed up the investigation. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Retired Coconino County Lt. Tom Brawley headed up the investigation. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A piece of Arizona’s history is coming to the big screen this weekend.

Epic Pictures is releasing its full-length feature film “Last Rampage,” on Sept. 22, based on the true story of the 1978 Arizona prison break and the subsequent killing spree of Gary Tison and Randy Greenawalt.

Bill Richardson, a retired Arizona law officer, was part of the elite, multi-agency task force formed by then-Gov. Bruce Babbitt to catch the killers.

He recalls the public sentiment during the days following the escape.

“They were scared to death and the fear was statewide. The fear was unbelievable,” said Richardson. 

Richardson remembers the public paralysis in Arizona during the summer of 1978. Convicted killers Gary Tison and Randy Greenawalt busted out of prison in Florence with the help of Tison's three sons who had smuggled in guns.

The days that followed took the gang on a multi-state killing spree, leaving six people dead, including a Marine in Yuma, his wife, young son and niece.

The violent saga will soon be up on the big screen, called "Last Rampage."

"I expect it to be a good movie," Richardson said.

Retired Coconino County Lt. Tom Brawley, who headed up the investigation, talked to us via Skype about the case.

"It was the largest manhunt in the history of Arizona. Almost every officer in the state of Arizona was involved in this manhunt in one way or another," said Brawley.

The Tison gang killing spree came to an end 11 days after the escape, in a shootout with officers south of Casa Grande. Tison's oldest son was killed, his other two boys and Greenawalt were arrested, and Gary Tison took off running. His body was found in the desert more than a week later.

"It was political, completely. This was all about finding the killers," Richardson said.

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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

Click to learn more about Donna.

Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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