John Charles McCluskey, 49, was sentenced this morning by U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera of the District of New Mexico to serve life in prison followed by a consecutive term of 2,820 months (235 years) in prison for carjacking and murdering a retired couple from Oklahoma in August 2010.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez 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 and his co-defendants, Tracy Allen Province, 46, and Casslyn Mae Welch, 47, were charged with numerous capital offenses in an indictment arising out of the Aug. 2, 2010, carjacking and murders of Gary and Linda Haas, both 61, in Quay County, New Mexico. On Jan. 20, 2012, Province and Welch entered guilty pleas to crimes arising out of the carjacking and murder of Mr. and Mrs. Haas, and agreed to testify during McCluskey’s capital trial. Yesterday, Province was sentenced to five consecutive terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of release as required by his plea agreement and Welch was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
On Oct. 7, 2013, McCluskey was found guilty on all counts of the indictment after an eight-week trial, and later was found eligible for the death penalty on Nov. 5, 2013, following a three-week proceeding. McCluskey’s capital trial concluded on Dec. 11, 2013, when the jury said it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the death penalty, thus requiring that McCluskey be sentenced to life in prison.
“With the help of his conspirators, John Charles McCluskey mercilessly killed two innocent victims and burned their bodies as he fled law enforcement after escaping from prison,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Our thoughts are with those whose lives were changed forever by these heinous crimes.”
“Today’s sentencing hearing brings to a close a case that focused on an exceptionally violent episode in the summer of 2010, during which John Charles McCluskey and Tracy Allen Province escaped from prison with help from Casslyn Mae Welch, committed multiple kidnappings during their interstate flight from justice, and mercilessly killed two innocent victims to eliminate them as witnesses,” said U.S. Attorney Martinez. “While the sentences imposed on McCluskey and his co-conspirators cannot restore the loss of Gary and Linda Haas, I hope that they bring some measure of comfort and closure to their families and friends and I commend the prosecutors and investigators who worked tirelessly to seek justice for Gary and Linda Haas.”
The evidence presented during McCluskey’s capital trial established that, on July 30, 2010, McCluskey and Province escaped from an Arizona state prison with Welch’s aid. On Aug. 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. McCluskey shot and killed Mr. and Mrs. Haas in the trailer in a remote location east of Tucumcari, New Mexico. The three associates 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 Aug. 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 Aug. 9, 2010, and McCluskey and Welch were arrested in Arizona on Aug. 19, 2010, following a nationwide, multi-agency manhunt.
“The rationale behind violent crimes like the ones committed against the Haases may be hard to understand, but our message today is crystal clear: the FBI and its partners will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who show such a callous disregard for innocent lives,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lee. “I am proud of the hard work of the FBI investigators and support personnel who worked on this case, alongside the federal prosecutors, victim/witness specialists, the New Mexico State Police and U.S. Marshals Service.”
“The conviction of John McCluskey and subsequent sentence of life in prison, without the chance of parole, is one that will make the community safer not only for the citizens we serve but also for the law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect them,” said New Mexico Police Chief Kassetas. “McCluskey was and is a criminal predator who has no respect for the basic rights and liberties that we as a society value so greatly. I can only hope that he is kept in a maximum level incarceration facility that will eliminate his ability to cause harm to anyone while he serves out his life sentence. I again want to thank the FBI, U.S. Attorney's Office and all the other New Mexico and Arizona law enforcement agencies that assisted with the Haas murder investigation, and with the capture and prosecution of McCluskey.”
The case was investigated by Albuquerque and Phoenix Divisions of the FBI and the New Mexico State Police. It was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Michael S. Warbel of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Mott and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Fouratt of the District of New Mexico, with assistance from Kristopher N. Houghton, a contract attorney employed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.