Search for state hospital escapee prompts increased law enforcement presence

The Vernon Police Department (VPD) announced Thursday that residents in the area may see a significant presence of law enforcement as the search for North Texas State Hospital (NTSH) escapee Alexander Scott Ervin continues. 

VPD says it is assembling with Wilbarger County Sheriff's Office, Texas DPS, Texas Rangers, USMS and the Attorney Generals' Fugitive Task Apprehension Unit to conduct a systemic search of the last known path taken by Ervin.

Vernon police say no new information has been received, and Ervin has not been seen. Authorities are searching areas in and around Vernon that have yet been checked. Citizens in the area are encouraged to stay aware of their surroundings and report any information on this case to local authorities.

In 2014, a Travis County jury found Ervin, who is autistic, not guilty of murder by reason of insanity in the death of his father, Ray Scott Ervin. 

His brother, Maxwell Ervin, testified that Alexander Ervin attacked their father with a pipe wrench and a folding knife, alleging that Ray Ervin was an imposter. Alexander claimed to be a trained member of the CIA on a mission to kill his father, Maxwell Ervin testified.

Ervin was committed to NTSH in April 2022.

His mother, Leslie Ervin, says she has no idea where he went, but it's possible he could be coming to Austin.

She says she's worried about her son and the public.

"My worry is this isn't going to end well because Lex is autistic, he has a different affect than other people, and I feel that he's impulsive, off his medication, he may be aggressive, I'm just terrified something's going to happen to him, and I'm terrified someone else might get hurt also," she said.

"We were living in terror before everything happened. Then the worst thing happened, that Scott was killed, then the best thing happened, that Lex was found not guilty by reason of insanity, so he's in a safe place where he's getting help but now the worst thing's happened, he's got out of there, we had just really in the past few years begun to feel safe," Leslie said. 

NTSH staff advised Vernon authorities that the 29-year-old was found missing around 7:30 a.m. Monday, June 27. 

Police say Ervin left his dormitory room around 9 p.m. Sunday, and was seen on security footage scaling the hospital's 8-foot security fence, leaving the grounds about 15 minutes later.

North Texas State Hospital is part of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

We asked HHS about the escape and security measures in the hospital. They said:

"State hospitals provide inpatient care for psychiatric patients. Names/identities of state hospital patients are confidential by law. Because such information is confidential by law, we cannot confirm or deny the identity of a state hospital patient or provide information about any incident that could indirectly identify a patient.

"We can provide general information about unauthorized departures. We take the safety and security of our state hospitals and our communities seriously. If a person makes an unauthorized departure from a state hospital, we immediately investigate, notify law enforcement, and notify HHSC Provider Investigations when appropriate. Here is more information on what PI investigates: We also conduct a thorough review and continue to strengthen our policies and procedures as needed."

"If anybody sees Lex they should go inside to a safe place, do not engage with him, don't make eye contact with him, if he talks to you, just be kind of non-committal and move on, and then immediately call 911," Leslie said.

Ervin is considered armed and dangerous. Police ask that anyone who sees him not to approach him, but call 911 to report it. 


The Associated Press contributed to this report.