A suspicious forest ranger went to investigate an unattended campfire and found two of America’s most wanted fugitives, John McCluskey and his accomplice, fiancée, first cousin Casslyn Welch.
The arrest ended the three-week search for the modern day “Bonnie and Clyde.”
According to The Associated Press, around 4 p.m. a U.S. Forest Service ranger, went to investigate an unattended campfire, and found a silver Nissan Sentra, “backed suspiciously into the trees as if someone were trying to hide it.”
The ranger then had a conversation with McCluskey who “appeared nervous and fidgety.” A SWAT team and surveillance unit surrounded the campsite and closed in on the fugitives.
David Gonzales, U.S. Marshal for Arizona reports that Welch apparently reached for a weapon but after seeing the amount of armed officers dropped it. McCluskey was found lying in a sleeping bag and reportedly told authorities that he had a gun in the tent, and would have shot them if he had the chance.
The arrests were made without any guns being fired, although according to authorities McCluskey said he “wishes he would have shot the forest ranger when he had the opportunity.”
McCluskey, Welch and a third fugitive Tracy Province, who was captured on August 9, are linked to the August 4 murders of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Oklahoma. Officials believe the car found at the campsite belonged to the Haas’.
Shiela Walker, a friend of the Haas’ told The Associated Press, “That’s the best news we’ve had in 10 days. Everybody just broke down and cried for a little bit. We are just thrilled they are back behind bars.”
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Said state Corrections Department Director Charles Ryan, “I hope the citizens of Arizona and the nation can rest easier this evening.” The arrest came hours after officials discussed a report that outlined a series of embarrassing security breakdowns that allowed the escape.
Ryan said the operational practices can sometimes lead to a gap of 15 minutes or longer during shift changes along the perimeter fence. The prison also has a badly defective alarm system, a perimeter post that was unstaffed, an outside dormitory door that was propped open with a rock, and the alarms go off so often at the prison that personnel often ignores them.
Prison staff claims the dormitory door was open because of the, “heavy amount of foot traffic.” It was this door that McCluskey, Province, and a third inmate Daniel Renwick, used to get to a 10-foot chain-linked fence that wasn’t topped with razor wire. After scaling the fence they hid behind a building in an area that isn’t visible to staff from the yard.
Welch then tossed wire cutters over the fence during a shift change and the inmates were able to cut a 30-by-22-inch hole in the fence and escaped. After and investigation that had hundreds of false sightings, Welch 44, and McCluskey 45, are finally in custody and are being held in the Apache County Jail in St. Johns.