Crime

John McCluskey, Arizona Prison Escapee, Faces Death Penalty in New Mexico Trial Starting Today

Arizona prison escapee John McCluskey's murder trial gets under way today in Albuquerque for the slaying of an Oklahoma couple during a three-week crime spree in 2010.

Linda and Gary Haas, both 61, were General Motors plant workers on their annual trip to Colorado in August 2010 when they're believed to have run into McCluskey and his two accomplices at a rest area near the New Mexico-Texas line.

See also: - Escaped Inmate and Incestuous Fiancee/ Cousin May be in Arkansas. How Fitting?

The career criminal had just broken out of a prison near Kingman with two other inmates, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick, after McCluskey's cousin/fiancée Casslyn Welch tossed them some cutting tools and guns. Renwick struck out on his own and was busted two days after the July 30 breakout. McCluskey and Province, meanwhile, truck-jacked and kidnapped two people, soon releasing the victims unharmed in Flagstaff. They were convicted in Arizona in 2011 for the escape and assault of the Arizona victims.

The Haases weren't so lucky. The desperate trio wanted their truck and camper-trailer. After being forced at gunpoint to drive to a remote location, the expectant grandparents were shot.

Province was apprehended on August 9 about 60 miles from Yellowstone National Park. But McCluskey and Welch managed to elude the multi-state manhunt another week or so before being arrested while camped out near Sunrise Ski Resort in Arizona.

A state investigation turned up no surprises, unless incompetent management is a surprise: The privately run prison under Arizona Department of Corrections supervision had severe, long-running security weaknesses.

Welch and Province are expected to testify against McCluskey at the trial, which may take up to four months.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.