8/27/2013 12:50:00 PM Inmate grilled in trial of fellow prison escapee Defense says witness is 'performing' to convict former bunkmate
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A defense attorney grilled a former Arizona fugitive about everything from his past murder conviction to the role he played in the slayings of an Oklahoma couple who was carjacked while he, a fellow escaped inmate and their accomplice were on the run in New Mexico.
Tracy Province is on the stand Tuesday for a second day in the capital murder trial of his former bunkmate, John McCluskey, who Province testified Monday was the triggerman in the couple's deaths.
McCluskey's attorney, Michael Burt, suggested Province was "performing" for the jury and that his credibility was questionable given inconsistent statements he made to investigators following the August 2010 slayings.
Province says he may have blocked out details about moving one of the victim's bodies because it was "a pretty traumatic incident."
The prosecution's case against McCluskey hinges partly on Province's testimony. The two, along with an accomplice who threw cutting tools onto the prison grounds, sparked a nationwide manhunt when they escaped from a medium-security prison near Kingman, Ariz., in July 2010.
Province testified that it took three months to plan the escape but only three minutes to accomplish.
The inmates scaled one fence and cut wire and more fencing along the prison perimeter before they began searching for their getaway car, Province said.
"Once we didn't find the escape vehicle, the plan changed. We were flying off the cuff," he said.
Prosecutors say the trio kidnapped two truck drivers and commandeered their semi after walking hours through the desert. They hitched another ride south, picked up another car with the help of McCluskey's family members and then headed toward the Arizona-New Mexico state line where they camped.
According to court documents and Province's testimony, the trio targeted Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., at a rest stop near the Texas-New Mexico state line on Aug. 2, 2010. Tired of driving more than 1,000 miles in their cramped get-away car, they wanted the couple's pickup truck and trailer.
The Haases were carjacked at gunpoint and forced to drive to a desolate spot along Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico.
Province said he and the accomplice, Casslyn Welch, were outside the trailer when they heard gunshots ring out. He pointed to McCluskey as the triggerman.
Province said McCluskey asked for his help moving Gary Haases' body and then the trio found a more remote spot where they unhitched the trailer and set it ablaze with the bodies inside.
Province said he thought of his own parents when he heard the four shots. In the following days, he said McCluskey apologized to him a number of times.
"I felt that he actually meant it, but I didn't want to think about it. I told him to shut the heck up because there was nothing we could do about it now," Province said.