ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Escaped prisoner John McCluskey killed a retired Oklahoma couple in cold blood while he was on the run and should be convicted of capital murder for his 2010 crime spree, the prosecution said in closing arguments Tuesday.
"This is a man who was willing to shoot and kill to get what he wants," Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Mott told an Albuquerque jury.
McCluskey is being tried on federal carjacking, murder and other charges in the August 2010 deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla. The couple's charred remains were found among the wreckage of their burned-out travel trailer on a remote ranch in eastern New Mexico.
Mott told the jurors that the only possible verdict after a monthlong trial is guilty on all counts. Among the evidence, she said, are fingerprints and DNA on the murder weapon and inside the Haases stolen pickup truck.
"He did it in cold blood, "she said. "He did it to take their stuff. He did it not to leave witnesses and he did it to get away."
Prosecutors rested their case last week after calling dozens of witnesses, including McCluskey's cousin and girlfriend, Casslyn Welch, and his former prison bunkmate, Tracy Province. Both alleged in testimony that McCluskey was the triggerman.
Defense attorneys, without calling any witnesses of their own, tried to discredit Welch and Province. They accuse the two of cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for leniency. Welch and Province pleaded guilty last year and face life sentences.
McCluskey, if convicted, faces either life in prison or the death penalty.
The Haases were killed three days after Welch said she helped McCluskey, Province and another inmate escape from a privately run, medium security prison near Kingman, Ariz. One of the inmates was caught a day later in Colorado. The search for Welch, McCluskey and Province sparked a nationwide manhunt.
According to testimony, the trio targeted the Haases for their truck and trailer after having fled through three states in a cramped car without air conditioning. Welch testified the plan was never to kill anyone, just to "get off the grid" and go into hiding.
Prosecutors contend that McCluskey had intentions of harming the Haases from the moment he and his alleged accomplices spotted the retired couple at a rest stop.
"He wanted that vehicle. He wanted to stay on the run. And the only way he could do that was to ultimately eliminate the Haases," prosecutor Mike Warbel told the judge Thursday.
Following Susan Montoya Bryan on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/susanmbryanNM
Also on HuffPost:
Michael David Elliot
In this surveillance photo from a Middlebury, Ind., gas station provided by the Michigan State Police is Michael David Elliot who escaped from the Ionia Correctional Facility in mid-Michigan Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 after creating a hole at the bottom of the two perimeter fences and crawling through, according to authorities. Elliot was serving a life sentence for fatally shooting four people and burning down their Gladwin County house in 1993.
Ronaldo Silva allegedly broke out of a Brazilian prison by dressing in drag in April 2012. He was caught less than an hour later by a cop who noticed that he was walking funnily in heels. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/prison-escape-in-drag_n_1431558.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
Tiffany Hurd, 36, actually allegedly commited a jail break-IN. She was nabbed in July 2012 trying to hop a barbed-wire fence to enter Butler County Jail in Ohio. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/tiffany-hurd-jail-ohio_n_1719531.html" target="_hplink">Read more. </a>
Philippine Jail Break
Eleven prisoners, including bandit leader Datukan Samad, allegedly hacksawed their way through the iron grills of Maguindanao Province Jail in July 2012. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/philippine-jail-escape-datukan-samad_n_1661789.html" target="_hplink"> Read more.</a>
This picture shows 3 of the 4 inmates who allegedly escaped from a central Kansas jail in April 2012. Murderer Santos Carrera-Morales (center), kidnapper Eric James (left), assault convict Alberto Barraza-Lujan (not pictured) and aggravated battery convict Drew Wade (right) were all eventually discovered in Nebraska by authorities. The incident raised questions about prison security. 3 of the 4 prisoners allegedly drove away from the jail in a Nissan Altima. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/santos-carrera-morales-escaped-murderer-caught_n_1440194.html" target="_hplink"> Read more.</a>
Sometimes furry critters want to join the convicts. In July 2012, authorities removed a bobcat crawling around the roof of the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington. Check out the animalicious video <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/bobcat-breaks-into-prison_n_1679634.html" target="_hplink">here.</a>
Cortez Hooper, Quincy Stewart
Murder suspects Hooper and Stewart allegedly escaped from a jail in Arkansas in May 2012. The pair reportedly used a hacksaw to break the bars on the windows of their second-story cells and smashed a pane of glass. Authorities say they pushed their mattresses out the window to soften their landings. The two were discovered by authorities shortly thereafter. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/28/arkansas-jail-break-manhunt_n_1551158.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
Failed Jail Break Plot
Donald Kohut and Justin Heflin were charged with plotting to help murderer Christa Pike escape from prison in March 2012. Pike was convicted with her then-boyfriend of the 1996 slaying of Colleen Slemmer. The motive for murder was believed to stem from a love triangle. Pike and Tadaryl Shipp carved a pentagram into Slemmer's chest and then stabbed and beat her to death, according to authorities. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/christa-gail-pike-jail-break_n_1369934.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
Suitcase Prison Plot
In July 2011, Maria del Mar Arjona, 19, allegedly tried to sneak her inmate husband Juan Ramirez Tijerina out of prison in Mexico in some luggage. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/04/suitcase-prison-escape-mexico_n_890012.html" target="_hplink"> Read more.</a>
Armin Christian, 65, was found in May 2012 after fleeing prison in South Carolina 31 years ago. Christian was reportedly living in Rhode Island as a handyman under a new name. He was originally sentenced to 11 months in prison for failing to pay child support. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/25/armin-christian-arrested-escaping-prison-south-carolina_n_1545604.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>
Man Got Out To Get Off
Even inmates can get horny. In March 2012, murder suspect Arien L'Italien allegedly left his cell and wandered over to the women's inmate block, in order to have sex with Karla Wilson. Authorities spotted L'Italien as he was crawling back to his cell. L'Italian and Wilson were both then transferred to different areas of the facility. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/arien-litalien-escapes-jail-sex-karla-wilson-maine_n_1342421.html" target="_hplink">Read more.</a>