Ariz. prison escapees, alleged accomplice indicted on capital murder, carjacking chargesBy Tim Korte, AP
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Ariz. fugitives indicted on capital murder charges
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal grand jury has indicted two Arizona prison escapees and a woman who allegedly helped them escape on capital murder and carjacking charges in the New Mexico deaths of an Oklahoma couple.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said Thursday that John Charles McCluskey, 45, Tracy Allen Province, 42, and Casslyn Mae Welch, 44, could face the death penalty if convicted. The three are accused in the murders of Gary and Linda Haas, of Tecumseh, Okla., whose remains were found with their burned-out recreational trailer near Santa Rosa, N.M.
McCluskey, Province and Welch face charges of conspiracy to commit carjacking, carjacking resulting in death, tampering with a witness, conspiracy and other crimes.
Prosecutors have said the three targeted the couple at an Interstate 40 rest stop because they had grown weary of traveling and sleeping in a car, and wanted to steal the couple’s camping trailer. The Haases were taken to a remote ranch where they were shot, and the trailer was set on fire Aug. 2.
The Haases, both 61, were traveling to Pagosa Springs, Colo., for a camping trip. Gonzales has said they simply were “two people on vacation who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Authorities said the three defendants remain in Arizona custody and prosecutors will next seek to extradite them to New Mexico.
The three face felony charges in Arizona of escape, kidnapping, armed robbery and aggravated assault. In court documents posted Thursday in Arizona’s Mohave County, McCluskey’s attorney requested that the case be sent back to the grand jury.
John Peechia claimed the prosecutor didn’t explain to grand jurors how to change the indictment, if they wished, because it was under their scope of authority. He also said testimony the state elicited from a detective — that McCluskey was both engaged to and is the first cousin of Welch — served no purpose but to prejudice the jurors.
He also raised concern that one of the grand jurors might not have been qualified.
“Had these errors not occured, there is reasonable doubt as to whether the grand jury would have come to the same conclusion,” Peechia wrote in his request.
The prosecutor named in the document did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Investigators said Welch helped McCluskey, Province and Daniel Renwick escape from the Arizona State Prison in Kingman on July 31 by throwing wire cutters over a fence. The escape sparked a nationwide manhunt.
Renwick, who split from the group, was recaptured Aug. 1 in Colorado. The three others went on a multistate crime spree before Province was arrested in Wyoming on Aug. 8 and McCluskey and Welch were arrested in Arizona on Aug. 19.
Unable to locate a getaway vehicle Welch had stashed in the desert, McCluskey, Province and Welch kidnapped two tractor-trailer drivers using handguns Welch had obtained.
When McCluskey was arrested with Welch near Springerville, Ariz., authorities said he expressed regret at missing a chance to kill the U.S. Forest Service ranger who led to their capture.
Associated Press Writer Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Ariz., contributed to this report
Tags: Albuquerque, Arizona, Correctional Systems, Indictments, New Mexico, North America, Oklahoma, Prison Breaks, United States, Violent Crime