Casslyn Welch said she never dreamed her effort to help her fiancee cousin break out of a state prison in northwest Arizona would lead to any bloodshed, let alone murder. Instead two truck drivers were abducted to aid flight to eastern Arizona, and a vacationing couple would be murdered in New Mexico within days of the July 30, 2010 prison escape in Golden Valley.
The fugitives abducted Gary and Linda Haas in New Mexico. McCluskey is serving a life sentence for shooting and killing the retired Tecumseh, Oklahoma couple that had been enjoying their annual vacation.
The victim’s charred remains were found August 4 in their camper trailer that McCluskey torched after the murders.
“Oh God, and how he put them through torture and terror was unexcusable (sic),” Welch said. “If I would have been brave enough to stand up to Charlie and tell him ‘no’, it would have been a million times different. They (the Haas) would have had their families and the truck drivers would never have been terrified.”
Welch said her cousin’s demeanor changed noticeably moments before the killings.
“I looked at Charlie’s face and he was not the kid that I grew up with,” Welch said.
The post escape multiple state odyssey ventured north to Wyoming where Province was dropped off about one mile outside Yellowstone National Park. After his August 9 arrest Province told authorities he intended to commit suicide by bear by ingesting heroin and being eaten in the wilderness.
Welch and McCluskey were taken into custody at an eastern Arizona campground ten days later.
Just six weeks before the escape, Welch had been caught smuggling drugs into the prison that the Centerville, Utah-based Management & Training Corporation (MTC) operates through a private prison contract with the state of Arizona. Welch admitted bringing heroin into the facility on three occasions and she had agreed to work as an informant before she double-crossed authorities by returning to facilitate the escape.
Only through escape-related publicity did the general public and local law enforcement authorities learn that 117 convicted killers were incarcerated at the facility that was originally constructed to house DUI offenders.
Embracing spending the rest of her life behind bars, Welch said the state of Arizona shoulders some blame for the Haas murders by providing escape temptation to killers confined by inadequate security.
“Now I’m a lifer. I understand the philosophy now,” Welch said. “You have to keep killing the (inmate’s) hope. You can’t let us have any hope. And when they took those guys and put them over in that little playpen…that gave them hope.”
Welch is serving a 40-year federal prison term for her convictions in New Mexico. She is scheduled to be given a concurrent 20 year prison term when sentenced for her Mohave County convictions Wednesday.