Arizona convict nabbed in Meeteetse

Posted 8/10/10

As of Monday afternoon, Province was being held in the Park County Detention Center, said Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric. An extradition hearing was expected sometime Tuesday morning, Skoric said.

He is the second of the three men who escaped …

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Arizona convict nabbed in Meeteetse


U.S. Marshals apprehend Arizona prison break convict in Meeteetse MondayOne of two escaped convicts from an Arizona prison, also suspected in the murder of an elderly Oklahoma couple last week, was captured without incident in Meeteetse early Monday morning.According to the U.S. Marshals, Tracy Province, 42, was arrested at 6:20 a.m. Monday. He was carrying a handgun and a hitch-hiking sign saying “Casper.”

As of Monday afternoon, Province was being held in the Park County Detention Center, said Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric. An extradition hearing was expected sometime Tuesday morning, Skoric said.

He is the second of the three men who escaped from the Arizona State Prison on July 30 to be arrested.

Still on the lam are escapee John Charles McCluskey, 45, and his first cousin, girlfriend and suspected accomplice, Casslyn Welch, 43.

Although McCluskey and Welch were believed to be in Yellowstone National Park over the weekend, U.S. marshals said they believed the duo was in Montana Monday afternoon.

“That's where we're concentrating our search,” said U.S. Marshals Supervisory Deputy Thomas Henman in Phoenix.

McCluskey, Province and Daniel Renwick, 35, escaped from the Arizona State Prison at Kingman on July 30. Welch is believed to have assisted them in the escape, said the marshals.

Province and Renwick were doing time for murder and McCluskey for attempted murder, Henman said.

On Aug. 1, Renwick was arrested in Rifle, Colo., after a brief car chase that included firing a weapon at a pursuing police vehicle.

Officials said a Meeteetse woman had contacted authorities after chatting with Province on the steps of one of the town's churches on Sunday and later recognizing his face on the news.

“As soon as she sat down on her couch, up come the pictures of the escapees and she immediately identified (Province),” said David Gonzales, the U.S. Marshal for Arizona at a Monday morning press conference in Phoenix.

A Park County Sheriff's office deputy received the tip, and the deputy, in turn, contacted U.S. marshals, said Henman.

Law enforcement officials set up surveillance near the church Sunday night and spotted Province Monday morning, arresting him without incident, Gonzales said.

He said Province expressed relief at being caught.

“We knew our escapees were in the Yellowstone area, and it was just a matter of time before we arrested maybe one or two of them,” Gonzales said.

“He was arrested at my motel,” said Sherry Long, who owns the Oasis Motel and RV Park in Meeteetse with her husband, Bob.

Long said the convict was arrested on motel property, but he was not a registered guest.

Province went to church Sunday in Meeteetse, she said.

Long said law enforcement did not warn Meeteetse residents that Province or his cronies were in the area.

“We weren't aware of it,” Long said. “That's kind of scary.”

On Sunday, information was developed by law enforcement in New Mexico linking the escapees to the Aug. 1 murder of an elderly couple at a campground in Santa Rosa. The couple's camper had been set on fire and was discovered in Santa Rosa, while their truck was found abandoned approximately 120 miles away in Albuquerque, said the marshals.

The victims were Linda and Gary Haas, both 61, of Tecumseh, Okla.

Forensic evidence linked only McCluskey. But all three — McCluskey, Welch and Province — were together during that time frame, Henman said.

“We do know they have weapons on them,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Sandy Lawrence. “They were all considered armed and extremely dangerous.”

Although the marshals believe the fugitives decamped Yellowstone, the National Park Service is on its toes.

“Obviously, we're taking this seriously,” said Yellowstone Park Spokesman Al Nash.

Around 100 well-trained rangers patrol Yellowstone, Nash said.

“They (rangers) are out there,” he added.

Nash said the Park Service is asking visitors to be vigilant and to dial 911 or contact a ranger immediately if they see an individual or individuals they suspect are McCluskey and Welch.

“They consider themselves as Bonnie and Clyde,” said Gonzales. “This is very, very serious business.”

Meanwhile, marshals are searching for the two fugitives.

“We're going to be on McCluskey like a cheap suit,” Gonzales said, saying officials want to end what has been “basically, a national nightmare.”

The wanted couple need money and may become more paranoid with time, Henman said.

“The longer they're on the run, the more desperate they become and the more dangerous the become,” Henman said.

Anyone with information on the fugitives is asked to call their local law enforcement or the Arizona State Prison Kingman Escapees Task Force at 602-542-1212.

A $40,000 reward has been offered for information resulting in the capture of the escapees, said the Marshals.

“If they (the public) just want to call 911, that's OK too,” Henman said.