They see themselves as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. But while for the moment they are America's most famous fugitives, even Hollywood would surely have trouble glamorising the likes of John McCluskey, who broke out from a medium-security Arizona prison on the night of 30 July, and his alleged accomplice Casslyn Welch.
True, there is romance of a sort in their tale. Welch, 44, is not just the woman who threw the wire cutters over the fence to McCluskey, giving him and two jailbird buddies the means to set themselves free. She is also, we are told, his fiancée. But wait, McCluskey's brave betrothed is in addition his cousin.
Smoothly would not describe how the escape unfolded. Now a band of four – McCluskey, 45, his girl and two other inmates named Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick – instantly hit trouble when they became disoriented in the dark. Only Renwick found the getaway car, a Chevy Blazer, which Welch had parked near by, packed with goodies for what was meant to be a trip for four including food, cash and drugs. He drove off alone.
The remaining trio resorted to hijacking another car to get as far away from the prison as fast as they could. The violence was to continue. Soon afterwards police found the bodies of an elderly Oklahoma couple in the charred remains of a camper in eastern New Mexico. The victims, they believe, died after encountering the escapees.
Luck was initially on the side of the police. Renwick was picked up in the getaway Chevy just two days after the breakout in Colorado. The cash they found amounted to almost $3,000. They also discovered a HiPoint .40 calibre model 4095 rifle, plus 141 rounds of ammunition, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and a driver's licence belonging to a Californian man. Then, last Sunday, Province was taken into custody in Wyoming.
And so they were two – and gone. This weekend, police here acknowledge that the whereabouts of McCluskey and his fiancée are simply not known. McCluskey was serving 15 years for attempted murder, and had already spent 14 years behind bars in Pennsylvania for a string of grocery shop robberies. It cheers no one that both have experience as long-distance lorry drivers. They may even have crossed the borders to Canada by now.
"At this point, because they move so quickly and easily, we have no idea," remarked Fidencio Rivera, chief deputy US Marshal for Arizona. "In two and a half days they could have traversed the entire United States. They can be anywhere." The authorities believe the two are dangerous and are presumably robbing and thieving to stay alive while on the lam. Officers have warned tourists in campsites especially to be on the alert. It is also thought they may have changed their appearances with McCluskey growing a beard and Welch dying her hair blonde.
So far, their run from the law has taken them through landscapes as far apart as Amarillo, Texas, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The last concrete sighting of the pair was in Billings, Montana, last weekend. There were unconfirmed reports a day later of their surfacing outside Glacier National Park, also in Montana.
In the middle of last week the focus of the manhunt switched abruptly to Arkansas, where a beauty salon owner was robbed by a middle-aged couple with a desperate air. Could they really have zigzagged across the land so wildly? The police didn't see why not. But that lead fizzled when police showed the salon owner pictures of McCluskey and Welch. Even if they had altered their looks, it couldn't have been them, she insisted.
"Fugitives one step ahead of the police," one tabloid newspaper in New York responded to the disappointing news. But one step, of course, may be something of an understatement. This weekend, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is on higher alert in southern Alberta. So, too, now, is Interpol, which wants police forces in countries even beyond the US and Canada to watch out for the elusive pair.
"The information included in the Interpol alert which has been sent to police around the world will significantly increase the chances that these two dangerous fugitives will be located and captured," hoped Interpol's executive director for police services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.
The lovers, if that is what they are, at least now have turned their notoriety global more effectively than Bonnie and Clyde ever could.Reuse content