Arizona escapee spared death sentence in 2010 double slaying

KINGMAN, Ariz. — A man convicted of killing an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico just days after a prison break in northwest Arizona will not be executed.

Instead, a federal judge will impose a life prison sentence for John McCluskey, 48, after a federal jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision when it broke off its death penalty deliberations in Albuquerque on Wednesday.

The July 2010 escape of McCluskey and two other inmates, aided by McCluskey’s girlfriend-cousin accomplice Cassie Welch, exposed security shortcomings at the Arizona state prison operated privately by Utah-based MTC in Golden Valley, just north of Kingman and about 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas.

Welch testified against McCluskey at trial, telling the jury that he shot and killed Gary and Linda Haas and burned their bodies in their camper trailer after they were abducted for their transportation.

Prosecutors argued in support of execution of a remorseless, cold-blooded killer while the defense countered that his life should be spared because McCluskey’s mind was clouded by brain damage and a history of substance abuse.

The jury declared itself deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict after four days of deliberation.

McCluskey was previously sentenced to 43 years in prison for the escape and the Arizona crime spree that preceded the homicides in New Mexico.

He was serving a 15-year prison term for attempted second-degree murder and other convictions at the time of the escape.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.