Escaped murderers kill NM couple, flee to Yellowstone National Park

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

My worst fears have been realized. Escaped murderers Tracy Province, 42, who was serving a life sentence for murder and robbery, and John McCluskey, 45, serving 15 years for second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm; and Casslyn Mae Welch, 44, McCluskey's cousin and fiancee who helped the men escape from a medium-security prison near Kingman, Arizona have "Gone Tison" Convicted murderers escape from medium-security privately operated prison (Gary Tison and Randy Greenawalt gang killed six after a prison escape in 1978) killing a couple in New Mexico before fleeing to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

The third escapee, Daniel Renwick, 36, who was serving two 22-year sentences for two counts of murder, was recaptured last Sunday in Rifle, Colorado after a shoot out with police.

I do not pretend to understand this Thelma & Louise driving off into the Grand Canyon aspect of this story with respect to Yellowstone National Park.

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The Arizona Republic reports today Arizona fugitives in Yellowstone National Park, police say:

Two escaped Arizona convicts and a Mesa woman suspected in the slaying of an Oklahoma couple were believed to be in Yellowstone National Park on Sunday and becoming increasingly desperate, authorities said.

A $40,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the fugitives. Anyone with information is urged to call the ASP Kingman Escapees Task Force at 602-542-1212.

With the trio connected to the killing of two campers in New Mexico as well as the hijacking of at least two other people, authorities said anyone who comes in contact with them is in danger.

"They are using violence to get what they want, and what they want is to stay out of prison," said Peter Olson, a New Mexico State Police spokesman.

It's believed the trio has split up since arriving in Wyoming, said Thomas Henman, supervisory deputy U.S. marshal for the district of Arizona.

* * *

"They are unpredictable and constantly on the move," Henman said. "They are very desperate and armed."

More than 100 law-enforcement agents, including marshals from Arizona, were zeroing in on the national park, which is filled with campers and tourists.

Henman noted that the Oklahoma couple, Gary and Linda Haas, 61, were found slain at a park near Santa Rosa, N.M., on Wednesday.

It is possible the couple met the escapees at a convenience store or gas station along the highway and were hijacked to New Mexico before they were killed, Olson said.

* * *

Welch and McCluskey are not only engaged, they are first cousins whose mothers are sisters, Henman said.

* * *

On Saturday, McCluskey's mother, Claudia Washburn, 68, was arrested at her gas station outside Payson on suspicion of giving the convicts money and hiding information from investigators. She was being held in the Gila County Jail in Globe in lieu of $250,000 bail.

"She has not told us anything," Henman said Sunday.

* * *

The $40,000 reward is unusual, Henman said, but "this is not the typical case."

It is coming partly from the U.S. Marshals Service and partly from Management and Training Corp., the Utah company that runs the prison near Kingman.

State corrections officials have criticized the company, saying lax security led to the breakout.

Attorney General Terry Goddard has issued the following statement:

Statement from Attorney General Terry Goddard regarding inmates
who escaped from private Arizona prison

PHOENIX – On July 30, three high custody inmates escaped from a private run for-profit prison in Kingman, Arizona. Two of the men, one serving time for murder and the other for attempted murder, are still at large. Investigators now believe these two are responsible for the double-murder of an elderly Oklahoma couple in New Mexico.

Today, Attorney General Goddard released the following statement:

"These dangerous inmates should have never been at a facility intended for DUI offenders. Now they are suspected of killing an elderly couple in New Mexico. I fervently hope they are caught soon, before they commit any more crimes. I urge Governor Brewer to take a long, hard look at her corrections priorities. Recent reports show that some of her closest advisers are paid advocates for private prisons. This kind of personal interest must never trump public safety.

"Upon learning about the escape, Charles Ryan, director of the Department of Corrections and a Brewer appointee, was quick to blame staff for the disaster. Instead of blaming staff, the Brewer administration should carefully examine their management and prisoner classification failures that allowed for these dangerous prisoners to be in a lower-security prison. Even faced with a difficult budget, public safety must never be jeopardized.

"From 2005-2009, the Corrections budget increased about $77 million each year. Under Brewer's watch, however, the Corrections budget instead was cut almost $68 million, leaving the agency $145 million dollars behind where it should be.  

"These violent offenders were not an exception in the privately run Kingman facility. Recent reports indicate that 117 inmates at that facility are serving life sentences, with either first or second degree murder charges.

"Last year, Brewer signed into law HB 2010, which privatized most of our correctional system and signed SB 1028, which permitted private vendors to operate one or more of Arizona's state prisons. SB 1028 was to include a 50-year contract and an up-front payment of $100 million. Brewer signed the bill, despite a letter from Corrections Director Ryan pleading with her not to. In the letter he wrote, "Undoubtedly, a private company would pay its employees significantly lower wages and provide them lesser training to realize cost savings. This would lead to higher staff turnover, low morale and place public safety at risk."

"Yet Brewer still signed it. The Brewer administration has consistently promoted private over  public prisons, in spite of the public safety risk. The escape of these two violent offenders makes it clear how dangerous this policy has been. Governor Brewer's priorities are wrong for Arizona."

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Governor Jan Brewer and the Republican-dominated Arizona legislature are wasting Arizona taxpayer's money this week on their "Republicans hate Unions" special session. Perhaps they should have called a special session to hold hearings into the Department of Corrections and Management and Training Corp. over this prisoner escape. And perhaps the governor and Republican legislators should explain to their constituents why privatizing prisons for the profit of their lobbyist cronies is more important to them than public safety and security.

UPDATE: Breaking news reports today that Tracy Province, 42, has been arrested by U.S. Marshals and the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Department. 1 of 2 escaped Arizona inmates captured in Wyoming. That leaves John McCluskey and his first cousin and fiancee, Caslynn Mae Welch, still on the run. This story sounds like a Quentin Tarantino movie.

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