Arizona Escapees, Companion Charged with Murder in New Mexico

By Beacon Staff

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two escaped convicts from Arizona and a woman who accompanied them were charged with murder and carjacking Monday in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple who authorities said were targeted because of their camping trailer.

Federal prosecutors in New Mexico filed murder and carjacking charges against John McCluskey, 45; Tracy Province, 42; and their alleged accomplice, Casslyn Welch, 44.

They’re accused in the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla.

Authorities said the three fugitives saw the couple at a rest area along Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico Aug. 2, three days after the men escaped from the Arizona State Prison in Kingman. An arrest warrant says the three were tired of traveling and sleeping in a car they stole in Flagstaff, Ariz., and decided “it would be a good idea to target someone driving a camper or trailer.”

Prosecutors say McCluskey shot and killed the couple inside their travel trailer. The three fugitives drove the truck and trailer to a remote area of New Mexico’s Guadalupe County, where they unhitched, burned and abandoned the trailer, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said at a news conference Monday that the Haases were traveling to Pagosa Springs, Colo., for a camping trip. He described them as “two people on vacation who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

McCluskey and Welch, who is his cousin and fiancee, were captured at a Forest Service campground near Springerville, Ariz., last week. Province was arrested Aug. 8 in Wyoming and has been returned to Arizona.

Gonzales said efforts were under way to extradite all three to New Mexico.

Asked if New Mexico would become the first place to prosecute the three for their crime spree because it is the location of the most serious charges, Gonzales said, “That’s certainly our position.”

He cautioned, however, that the process takes time, and he had no estimate when the three would be brought to New Mexico.

The trio also face charges in Arizona including kidnapping, armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. They are accused of hijacking a tractor-trailer shortly after the escape.

A third escaped convict, Daniel Renwick, split up from the rest of the group and was arrested two days after the jailbreak in Rifle, Colo.