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L.E. Forest Ranger Hailed as Hero for Fugitive Capture

L.E. Forest Ranger Hailed as Hero for Fugitive Capture

In this image provided by the U.S. Marshals Service fugitive John McCluskey is shown being taken into custody Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010 by U.S. Marshals in eastern Arizona. [AP]

Associated Press

August 20, 2010

PHOENIX — After nearly three weeks on the run, an escaped state prison inmate and his fiancee who were targets of an intense nationwide manhunt were captured Thursday at an Arizona campground after an alert forest ranger spotted the suspicious couple, along with their stolen vehicle hidden in the trees.

John McCluskey, 45, and Casslyn Welch, 44, who also is the inmate’s cousin, were taken into custody by several law enforcement officers about 7:15 p.m. at a campsite at the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona. Welch at first wielded a weapon, but dropped it when she saw she was outgunned by a SWAT team, said David Gonzales, U.S. marshal for Arizona.

McCluskey was in a nearby sleeping bag and taken into custody without incident. Other firearms were found at the campsite, and authorities said that McCluskely expressed regret at not having killed the U.S. Forest Service ranger who led to their capture.


U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales, addresses the media to announce the capture of escaped Arizona fugitive John McCluskey and his fiancee Casslyn Welch [AP]

“The nightmare is over, but it is still continuing. There’s a lot more for law enforcement to do,” Gonzales said, referring to investigations into crimes the pair may have committed while on the road, including the possible slaying of a couple in New Mexico.

“We want to tie them to as many crimes as we can,” Gonzales said. “We want to ensure that the New Mexico murders are looked at carefully, working with those agencies. And if there are any more crimes that were committed while they were out, we want to make sure we tie those to them.”

Said Arizona Corrections Department Director Charles Ryan, “I hope the citizens of Arizona and the nation can rest easier this evening.”

Corrections officials have said that Welch helped McCluskey and inmates Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick escape July 30 from a private prison facility near Kingman by cutting through a security fence, setting off a massive multistate search.

Renwick was recaptured in Rifle, Colo., on Aug. 1, and Province was found in Meeteetse, Wyo., on Aug. 9. The last confirmed sighting of McCluskey and Welch — two of the most wanted fugitives in America — was on Aug. 6 in Billings, Mont.

Renwick and Province were serving time for murder. McCluskey was serving a 15-year prison term for attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm.

Province, McCluskey and Welch have been linked to the slayings of Greg and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., couple whose burned bodies were found in a travel trailer Aug. 4 on a remote ranch near Santa Rosa, N.M. They had been traveling to Colorado on an annual camping trip.

Officials said the stolen car found Thursday at the campsite had New Mexico license plates.

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