Truckers urged to be on alert for ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ fugitives

| 8/17/2010

While there are no new leads in the case involving the escaped Arizona inmate and his suspected accomplice still on the lam, the U.S. Marshals Service is warning truck drivers to be on alert for the suspects at truck stops and remote areas.

That’s because John McCluskey, 45, and his accomplice and fiancée, Casslyn Welch, 43, both have previous experience as over-the-road truckers and may be hiding out at truck stops or remote areas, according to Richard Tracy, supervisory deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service.

“We’ve had some sightings at truck stops. They are comfortable in that environment,” Tracy told Land Line on Tuesday, Aug. 17. “If they are going to move about in public places, it’s likely they could be seen at one of these types of facilities.”

McCluskey was one of three prisoners who escaped from the Arizona State Prison at Kingman, AZ, on July 30. He is still at large, along with his fiancée, Welch, who allegedly helped him and two others escape. Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick have already been captured.

Not long after the prison escape, McCluskey, Welch and Province allegedly kidnapped two team drivers who were later released unharmed.

According to Leslie DeSantis, administrative manager for the Mojave Sheriff’s Department, OOIDA Member Prabhjeet Bains, 29, of Fresno, CA, and Gurdeep Singh, 43, were kidnapped as they stopped to switch drivers on Interstate 40 at milepost 44. Bains and Singh were on their way from California to Georgia with a load of cheese. The drivers were later released at Flagstaff, AZ.

DeSantis told Land Line that Bains and Singh were “pushed to the back of the cab and held at gunpoint, and a male subject got in the driver’s seat and drove.”

“It doesn’t appear they were injured; they were just held at gunpoint while the driving occurred,” she said.

DeSantis said she believes the escapees were forced to hijack the semi after one of the prisoners, Daniel Renwick, located the getaway car that was stashed nearby first and drove off without the other three. He was arrested in Rifle, CO, on Aug. 1 after a “brief car chase and firing a weapon at a pursuing police vehicle,” according to the U.S. Marshals report.

McCluskey and Welch are also suspects in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple whose bodies were found at an eastern New Mexico campground. Tracy said while they have had some tips that the two may have been in Arkansas, their focus is now on northwestern Montana and southwestern Canada.

“We’ve put alerts out on both sides of the border,” he said.

He said the agency has received recent information that McCluskey “may have some survival skills,” which would allow them to live on the land, so they may be hiding now in remote areas.

“If so, this may reduce their need for them to go into these public places and be seen,” Tracy said.

Tracy said authorities believe McCluskey and Welch are still driving a 1997 Nissan Sentra with Arizona plates. The plate number was 620PFV, but he said that it’s “highly possible the Arizona plates have been replaced.” He said the factory color listed for the Sentra is “platinum gold,” but the car looks like more of a silver or light gray color.

“Our target audience as far as public information goes is over-the-road truck drivers who are utilizing these facilities,” Tracy said. “We want them to know that McCluskey and Welch are out there. We want to keep this message out there, not only because of our interest in helping to catch them, but it’s about public safety as well.”

A $35,000 reward has been offered for information leading to their capture. If drivers witness anything suspicious, they are urged to call the ASP Kingman Escapees Task Force at 602-542-1212.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer