Law enforcement nabs ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ fugitives in Arizona

| 8/20/2010

Truck drivers can rest a little easier now that the “Bonnie and Clyde” fugitives have been captured after a three-week manhunt.

Around 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 19, John McCluskey, 45, and his accomplice and fiancée, Casslyn Welch, 43, also his cousin, were captured at a campground on the edge of the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests in Springerville, AZ. The arrests came a few hours after a forest service employee noticed an unattended fire and suspicious car. He questioned the couple, according to Thomas Henman, supervisory deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service.

Henman said the Apache County Sheriff’s SWAT team, supported by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Forest Service, moved in on McCluskey and Welch after a license plate check came back as stolen. The car matched the description of the 1997 Nissan Sentra the two were last seen driving.

Welch was armed at the time of the arrest, while McCluskey’s gun was inside of the tent. He was found lying just outside of it.

Henman added that Welch did pull a gun, “but she was able to be subdued before she was able to use it.”

“McCluskey made a comment after he was arrested, of course, that he should have tried to get his gun, which was in the tent,” Henman said. “He said that he should have shot that ranger and killed the ranger. He should have tried to get his gun and kill the police officers that were there.”

The U.S. Marshals Service had been warning truck drivers that the suspects may have been hiding out at truck stops and remote areas after the two were discovered to have been over-the-road truckers at one time.

“When you work these cases, you try to get in their minds about where would they go – but you can never tell, it’s so unpredictable,” Henman said. “Especially with these two, it just seemed like these guys went in a big circle.”

He said law enforcement officials were surprised to learn that the couple was still driving the same vehicle as their last confirmed sighting on Aug. 6 in Billings, MT. Henman said as of yesterday, the agency was still receiving tips from as far as Canada reporting sightings of the couple. On Thursday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told Land Line they were convinced that McCluskey and Welch hadn’t yet crossed the border, which turned out to be accurate.

The pair had been on the lam since July 30, when Welch allegedly threw wire cutters over the fence at the Arizona State Prison in Kingman and three prisoners, including McCluskey, escaped. Two are again in police custody, including Tracy Province, who was captured in Wyoming, and Daniel Renwick, caught near Rifle, CO. Province was serving a life sentence for murder and armed robbery, and Renwick was serving 22 years for second-degree murder. 

Shortly after escaping, Renwick is believed to have located the getaway car first, leaving the others behind. A little while later, two team drivers, one of whom was an OOIDA member, were kidnapped on Interstate 40 at milepost 44 and then released nearly five hours later near Flagstaff, AZ.

The team drivers were forced to the back of the cab and held at gunpoint, while a “male subject got in the driver’s seat and drove,” according to Leslie DeSantis with the Mohave Sheriff’s Department.

McCluskey and Welch are also suspected in the deaths of a 61-year old couple from Oklahoma whose bodies were found at an eastern New Mexico campground, near where the license plate was stolen.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer