Search for escapees, accomplice continues in Yellowstone area

Accomplice traveling with 1 of the former inmates is his 1st cousin
2010-08-08T13:49:00Z 2011-01-27T17:02:26Z Search for escapees, accomplice continues in Yellowstone areaCHELSEA KROTZER Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
August 08, 2010 1:49 pm  • 

UPDATE 8:45 a.m.: Al Nash, with the Yellowstone National Park public information office, said today that things remain business as usual in the park.

"Honestly, most of our visitors are not going to notice anything other than a typical busy summer day in Yellowstone," Nash said. "We have encouraged our staff and and are encouraging our visitors to be vigilant, but everything is open, there aren't any road blocks or areas of the park closed."

Nash said officers with the U.S. Marshal's Service came in over the weekend. Yellowstone park rangers have been assisting in the investigation.

Most calls of concern have come from people outside of the park, including people planning on a future visit or those who have family visiting the park.

"We are just working to reassure them that our job is always to keep visitors safe," Nash said.


UPDATE 8:15 a.m.: The two escapees and an accomplice remain at large and the search is continuing across the region today, Acting U.S. Marshal Rod Ostermiller said this morning.


INITIAL REPORT: Two Arizona prison escapees and their accomplice are believed to be hiding out in the Yellowstone National Park area.

U.S. Marshals Service Sgt. Thomas Henman said John Charles McCluskey, 45, and Tracy Province, 42, escaped from the Arizona State Prison with Daniel Renwick, 25, on the night of July 30.

Their accomplice, 43-year-old Casslyn Welch, was waiting for the three men outside of the medium-security private prison at about 9 p.m., Henman said.

“Casslyn Welch was on the outside and she basically threw over some wire cutters so the three escapees were able to scale two fences and then cut through the last fence,” Henman said. “That’s how they got out.”

Henman would not comment on the prison’s security system and whether or not any alarms went off during the escape.

The group split up after escaping. McCluskey, Province and Welch left together, while Renwick went out on his own, Henman said.

Renwick was later arrested in Rifle, Colo., on Aug. 1 after a police chase where Renwick shot at a pursuing police car.

Renwick had no known connection to the other two escapees, Henman said. McCluskey and Province are both part of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, a white supremacist organization.

Police believe the group separated again with Province traveling alone and McCluskey and Welch traveling together. They are considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Henman said McCluskey and Welch are dating. They are also first cousins. Welch has family in Arkansas, but police are not sure if that is where she resides.

McCluskey’s mother, Claudia Washburn, 68, was arrested in Jakes Corner, Ariz., and is being held on a $250,000 bond in the Gila County Jail in Globe, Ariz.

Washburn is accused of helping McCluskey, Province and Welch financially during the escape. Washburn has been charged with conspiracy to commit escape, hindering prosecution and facilitation to commit escape.

“We are not positive how they are getting around,” Henman said. “We knew of a vehicle they were in when they fled Arizona over a week ago, but outside of that, we do not know specifically how they are getting around.”

Henman said the U.S. Marshal’s Service, with the help of Montana and Wyoming police officers, are patrolling the park and surrounding area. Henman would not comment why they believe the escapees are in the area, other than evidence uncovered by investigators lead them to that location.

“We have a couple guys out in the area in case they do happen to get into vehicles,” said Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Keith Edgell. “Our involvement has been minimal at this point, more of a support position.”

Prior to his escape, McCluskey was serving a 15-year sentence for attempted second-degree murder, discharging a firearm and aggravated assault. He had been at the prison since July 2009.

“He shot a guy and was trying to finish off the job and his gun got jammed,” Henman said. “That occurred right outside of Phoenix in Mesa.”

Province was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and robbery. He had been at the Arizona prison since January 1993, filed two appeals and was found guilty of 12 disciplinary infractions, including drug possession, disobeying order and conspiracy.

Henman said Province and a friend stabbed a man 41 times in Tucson.

Both men are now suspects in the murder of an elderly couple in Santa Rosa, N.M., on Wednesday.

The couple, identified as Gary and Linda Haas of Oklahoma City, was taking a yearly trip to New Mexico and staying at a Santa Rosa campground. They left home on Monday.

Peter Olson, communications director for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, said a rancher found the couple at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

“The camper was burnt to the ground and there were two skeletal remains of two bodies found in the ashes,” Olson said.

That afternoon, police found the couple’s truck in Albuquerque, more than 100 miles away.

“They had no connection, just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Henman said.

Olson said there was no way to tell what exactly happened to the couple until an autopsy is completed.

Contact Chelsea Krotzer at ckrotzer@billingsgazette.com or 657-1392.

 

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