WASHINGTON—John Charles McCluskey, 48, will receive a life prison sentence for a host of crimes arising from the carjacking and murder of a couple from Tecumseh, Oklahoma, after a federal jury today announced that it could not reach a unanimous decision on whether to impose the death penalty.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough of the District of New Mexico, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and New Mexico State Police Chief Pete N. Kassetas made the announcement.
McCluskey was charged with several capital offenses in a 20-count indictment arising from the carjacking and murders of Gary and Linda Haas, both 61, in Quay County, New Mexico, on Aug. 2, 2010. On Oct. 7, 2013, the jury found McCluskey guilty on all counts of the indictment after an eight-week trial. On November 5, 2013, the jury found McCluskey eligible for the death penalty following a three-week proceeding. The capital trial concluded today when the jury said it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the death penalty. McCluskey will receive a sentence of life in prison. The court has not yet scheduled a date for the imposition of the sentence.
“During an exceptionally violent criminal episode in the summer of 2010, John Charles McCluskey escaped from prison, where he was serving a sentence for attempted murder, committed multiple kidnappings during his interstate flight from justice, and mercilessly killed two innocent victims to eliminate them as witnesses,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “Through the hard work of federal and state law enforcement and Department of Justice prosecutors, McCluskey and his co-defendants have been brought to justice. Our thoughts are with the victims and their family.”
“The men and women on this jury dedicated the last six months of their lives to performing a very difficult, but necessary, civil service. I respect their verdict and thank them for their personal sacrifice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough. “Hopefully, the fact that John Charles McCluskey has been found guilty of every count charged and will now spend the rest of his life in prison with no possibility of parole will bring some measure of comfort and closure to the friends and family Gary and Linda Haas left behind. The prosecutors and investigators who so tirelessly have worked toward the pursuit of justice are also to be commended.”
According to the evidence presented at trial, on July 30, 2010, McCluskey and co-defendant Tracy Allen Province, 46, escaped from an Arizona state prison with the aid of co-defendant Casslyn Mae Welch, 47. On August 2, 2010, McCluskey, Province and Welch carjacked Mr. and Mrs. Haas and their pickup truck and camping trailer at a rest stop off Interstate 40 in Quay County, New Mexico. McCluskey shot and killed Mr. and Mrs. Haas in the trailer in a remote location east of Tucumcari, New Mexico. The three confederates then drove the Haases’ truck and trailer to a remote area in Guadalupe County,New Mexico, where they unhitched, burned, and abandoned the trailer with the Haases’ remains still inside. On August 4, 2010, the New Mexico State Police discovered the burned remains of Mr. and Mrs. Haas in the trailer. Province was arrested in Wyoming on August 9, 2010, and McCluskey and Welch were arrested in Arizona on August 19, 2010, following a nationwide, multi-agency manhunt.
The trial evidence also established that McCluskey has the following prior convictions: convictions in 1993 in Pennsylvania for aggravated assault with a firearm and three armed robberies, for which he served 15 years in state custody; convictions in 2009 in Arizona for attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault with a firearm, for which he received a 15-year state prison sentence in Arizona; and convictions in 2011 in Arizona for escape, kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault, and felon in possession of a firearm, for which he received a 43-year prison sentence to run consecutive to his 15-year sentence.
On January 20, 2012, Province and Welch each entered a guilty plea to numerous crimes arising from the carjacking and murder of Mr. and Mrs. Haas, and both testified during the guilt phase of McCluskey’s trial. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Province will be sentenced to five consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of release. Welch faces a maximum penalty of life in prison under her plea agreement. Both remain in custody pending their sentencing hearings, which have yet to be scheduled.
“A long, painful ordeal for the Haas family has finally come to an end. Nothing we can do or say here today can return Gary and Linda Haas to their loved ones, but we hope this sentence gives them some measure of closure,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee. “I would like to recognize the FBI investigators and support personnel who contributed to this case, as well as the federal prosecutors, victim/witness specialists, the New Mexico State Police, and U.S. Marshals Service. The Albuquerque FBI Division will continue to combat violent crime in our big cities and small towns by working closely with our state and local partners.”
“I hope the conviction of John McCluskey brings a sense of closure to the family of Gary and Linda Haas,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete N. Kassetas. “This was a difficult and complex investigation but is yet another example of the exemplary relationship the New Mexico State Police maintains with our Federal law enforcement partners. I would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Attorney’s Office, the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, and all the other New Mexico and Arizona law enforcement agencies that participated in the investigation, capture of John McCluskey, and subsequent successful prosecution.”
The case was investigated by Albuquerque and Phoenix Divisions of the FBI and the New Mexico State Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Linda Mott and Gregory J. Fouratt of the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorney Michael S. Warbel of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section.