Three violent criminals, including two reputed members of the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist prison gang, escaped from an Arizona prison in August, setting off a three-week manhunt across the West that evoked comparisons to the pursuit of the 1930s bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde. Before it was over, a couple was found murdered in New Mexico, apparent victims of the fugitives.
Two of the escapees, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick, were recaptured in different states within 10 days. The remaining fugitive, John McCluskey — serving 15 years for attempted second-degree murder and other crimes — was finally arrested about two weeks later along with Casslyn Mae Welch, who was identified as his fiancée, cousin, and the woman who allegedly threw wire cutters over a prison fence to help the men escape.
Renwick, who was serving a 22-year sentence for second-degree murder, was captured after a shootout with police in Rifle, Colo. Province, who authorities said is in the ultra-violent Aryan Brotherhood with McCluskey, was nabbed in Meeteetse, Wyo., one day after attending a church service there. He was serving a life sentence for murder and armed robbery.
McCluskey and Welch were captured at a campground on the edge of two national forests near Springerville, Ariz. Welch tried to pull out a gun tucked in the back of her waistband, but SWAT members from the local sheriff’s department stopped her before any shots were fired.
The lovers are suspects in the slayings of an Oklahoma couple whose bodies were found in their charred camper on a remote ranch in eastern New Mexico five days after the fugitives escaped.
The three escapees had been incarcerated at a minimum/medium-security private state prison in Kingman, Ariz. During a visit to McCluskey at the prison less than six weeks before the escape, CasslynWelch was caught with marijuana and heroin in her purse. A narcotics task force detective interviewed Welch and reported that she admitted making three previous heroin deliveries to the prison. She allegedly said she picked up the drugs from men in Phoenix who she assumed to be part of the Aryan Brotherhood. Welch then agreed to be a police informant, but reneged, authorities said. Shortly after the escape, the warden and the security chief at the prison resigned.
The Aryan Brotherhood is an extremely violent, prison-based gang that is particularly strong in the American West and has been gaining strength on the streets. It was founded by inmates at California’s San Quentin prison in 1964. The group is fundamentally a criminal enterprise, but has white supremacist tenets.
While they were on the run, McCluskey and Welch fancied themselves as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, authorities said. But Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were gunned down in a police ambush on a rural road in Louisiana 76 years earlier. McCluskey and Welch emerged unscathed from their escapade, and are back in prison and awaiting their fates in court, as are Province and Renwick.