Arizona prison escape, killings prompt lawsuit
by JJ Hensley - Sept. 3, 2010 10:20 AM
The Arizona Republic
The first legal action in the Arizona prison breakout that led to the killing of two campers has been filed against the state and the operator of the private prison.
Vivian Haas, the mother of murder victim Gary Haas, filed a $10 million claim against Arizona and a wrongful death lawsuit against Management Training Corp., the company that operates the private prison near Kingman where three fugitives escaped on July 30.
The notice of claim is a required precursor to a lawsuit.
Police believe one of those escaped inmates, John McCluskey, murdered Gary Haas and his wife, Linda, near Santa Rosa, N.M. in the days following the escape as the fugitives grew weary of traveling in a car and targeted the Haas' for their camping trailer.
The escape led to a nationwide manhunt that stretched from Arizona to the Canada border.
The claim against Arizona notes the state's failure to maintain custody of the inmates, to properly train and supervise personnel at the prison and to promptly notify law enforcement officials in the area after the escape.
"I have conveyed my condolences to the Haas family and friends, however, I cannot comment on pending litigation," Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan said in a statement.
Management Training Corp. could not be immediately reached for comment.
Reviews of the July 30 incident have painted the picture of a prison where detention officers became lackadaisical and predictable in their movements and where equipment failures- including false alarms- were so common that they were frequently ignored.
Detention officers failed to check an alarm that sounded when McCluskey, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick cut through one of two security fences ringing the privately run prison near Kingman.
Investigators have said McCluskey's fiancée, Casslyn Welch, threw cutting tools over the fence to the men who snipped through chain link and barbed wire to flee into the desert.
It was more than two hours before staff at the private prison notified the state corrections officials of the escape.
By then, Renwick was making his way north to Colorado while McCluskey, Province and Welch were on their way to hijacking a truck near Kingman and forced the drivers to take them to Flagstaff.
Renwick was captured two days after the escape after he exchanged gunfire with police in Colorado.
After allegedly receiving help from relatives in Arizona, McCluskey, Province and Welch made their way east, ultimately ending up at a rest stop in New Mexico where, according to statements Province gave investigators, they saw 61-year-old Gary and Linda Haas, an Oklahoma couple taking an annual camping trip.
After days on the road in a cramped sedan, the fugitives decided to target travelers with a camping trailer and the Haas' fit the bill.
Province told investigators that he and McCluskey forced the couple into their truck at gunpoint while Welch followed behind. They all ended up in a remote area near Santa Rosa where McCluskey shot the Haas' in their trailer, according to court documents.
The fugitives set fire to the trailer in an effort to hide the evidence. A rancher discovered the burned trailer on Aug. 4.
The trio continued to evade authorities for days after the bodies were discovered.
Province was arrested in Wyoming on Aug. 9 and was carrying a backpack and 9mm gun, both of which he said were taken from the Haas'.
McCluskey and Welch were arrested in Apache County on Aug. 19.
Federal authorities last week filed murder charges against McCluskey, Welch and Province in New Mexico.
The three remain in a Mohave County jail on $1 million bond waiting to face charges there and ultimately extradition to New Mexico.
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