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10/8/2013 6:00:00 AM
Kingman prison escapee found guilty of murder
John McCluskey
John McCluskey

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The leader of a self-styled Bonnie and Clyde couple who staged a brazen prison escape and a three-week crime spree was convicted Monday of murder in the killings of a retired Oklahoma couple who crossed their path on an eastern New Mexico highway.

John McCluskey was found guilty of murder, carjacking and other charges in the August 2010 deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., who were making their annual summer trek to Colorado.

McCluskey could be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty.

McCluskey was one of three prisoners who escaped from a medium-security prison near Kingman, Ariz., in July 2010 with the help of his cousin and fiancee, Casslyn Welch.

One of the inmates was quickly captured after a shootout with authorities in Colorado, while McCluskey, Welch and inmate Tracy Province headed to New Mexico, where the carjacking of the Haases sparked a nationwide manhunt and an Interpol alert.

Province and Welch pleaded guilty last year to charges of carjacking resulting in death, conspiracy, the use of a firearm during a violent crime and other charges.

They both fingered McCluskey as the triggerman.

Province went his own way following the killings and was caught in Wyoming seven days later. But Welch and McCluskey remained on the lam, drawing comparisons to the legendary Bonnie and Clyde.

The Haas family has seen three years of tragedy. Gary Haas's mother, 83-year-old Vivian Haas, lost her home in the Joplin, Mo., tornado a year later. And her granddaughter, Gary and Linda's daughter, was found shot to death this year. Her husband has been charged with murder.

Vivian Haas was at the McCluskey trial every day along other relatives, intent on seeing justice served.

The victims, who were high school sweethearts and recent retirees from General Motors, were making their 11th summer trip to Colorado when they were killed three days after the prison break that Welch testified was funded by a drug smuggling ring she and McCluskey ran for prison inmates.

Welch acknowledged throwing cutting tools onto the prison grounds. McCluskey, Province and Daniel Renwick used the tools to break through a perimeter fence and flee into the desert. Welch also supplied the men with guns and money, and Renwick with a getaway vehicle.

While Renwick went his own way, the other three were accused of kidnapping a pair of truck drivers and commandeering their rig until they reached McCluskey's ex-wife and persuaded her to give them a ride to a car at McCluskey's mother's house.

Three days later, tired and hot from driving a small car 1,000 miles with no air conditioning, they set out to find a better vehicle. Testimony showed they spotted the Haases at an eastern New Mexico highway rest stop. Within an hour, the Haases were dead. Their charred remains were found among the wreckage of their burned-out travel trailer on a remote ranch in eastern New Mexico.

The defense called no witnesses and sought to save their client from a possible death penalty by casting doubt that the killings were premeditated. They also tried to undermine the testimony of Welch and Province, saying they reached plea agreements to testify against McCluskey to save themselves from possible execution.

Prosecutors contend McCluskey intended to kill the Haases from the moment he spotted them.

"He wanted that vehicle. He wanted to stay on the run. And the only way he could do that was to ultimately eliminate the Haases," prosecutor Mike Warbel said.

When he and Welch were finally captured at an Arizona camping ground, Warbel said, McCluskey was wearing Gary Haas's John Deere cap.

"I just have to ask you guys: Who wears a dead man's hat?" Fouratt said to the jury. "Is this some kind of trophy? Is this like a keepsake or a memento? And doesn't that help you decide ... who was the one who ended Gary Haas' life?"

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Related Stories:
• Kingman prison escapee to get life in prison for murders
• Jury: Kingman prison escapee eligible for death penalty
• Defense: Prison escapee has defective brain
• Death penalty on the table for Kingman prison escapee
• Witnesses won't waver in murder trial for Kingman prison escapee
• Escaped Kingman inmate: 'It could have been my family'
• Defense attacks witness in murder trial of Kingman escapee

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Article comment by: MO CO RIDER

good thing he was tried in n.m. if it was mohave county, he would have gotten probation...

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Article comment by: Karen Schroeder

Does anyone have a clue what they are talking about when they are talking about the Prison in Golden Valley? McClusky should of never been in that facility in the first place that was Arizona Department of Corrections fault. MTC does not have a say so on what kind of inmates enter the facility. The Keystone cops as you would call them, are all very well trained and couldn't of helped this particular situation. It unfortunately was a horrible accident that happened, but we all need to move past it and quit blaming the prison.

Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Article comment by: Fed up

He should be put in an old trailer or camper with the doors barricaded while someone lights it up. Just like he did to that poor couple. Find out what it's like to burn alive. Regular death is too good for him.

Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Article comment by: best reason

I cant think of a better reason to own a weapon and becoming handy with it use.

Cub scouts taught me to "Be Prepared". That lesson has served me well from 9yrs old to present day.

These three birds should have never made it off the yard that night. The prison was and still is unprepared.

Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Article comment by: MTC is Ultimately Guilty

Good. Now quickly carry out the punishment.

Do any of us really feel safe with the keystone cops known as MTC running a prison. Who is responsible for oversight in the operation of the private prison - What's that - the stockholders and owners. Now that really makes me nervous.

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