(McCluskey captured three weeks after his July, 2015 prison escape)


The central figure in a highly publicized northwest Arizona prison escape that led to two murders in New Mexico has died in custody. The Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) said John McCluskey, 52, died of apparent natural causes on Tuesday, March 7.

DOC spokesman Andrew Wilder said McCluskey was serving prison time in an undisclosed state and had been hospitalized for treatment of undisclosed health issues. His cousin and fiancé Casslyn Welch brought wire clippers and supplies to aid the July, 2010 escape of McCluskey and two other inmates from the state prison that was privately operated by MTC.

McCluskey shot and killed a vacationing couple just days after the prison break. He was serving a life sentence for the murders plus more than 200 years more for a string of convictions in Arizona.

The escape exposed serious security deficiencies at the prison in Golden Valley. A history of problems at the facility led the state of Arizona to cancel its contract with MTC before turning the operation over to the GEO group in December, 2015.