Woman admitted smuggling drugs into prison weeks before helping inmates escape


KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Casslyn Welch admitted smuggling drugs into a 3,500-inmate prison about six weeks before she is alleged to have helped three inmates escape from the same facility, a police report states.

Police believe the escapes of John McCluskey, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick led to two slayings in New Mexico.

Welch, 44, of Mesa, was detained during a June 19 visit to the prison when a corrections officer found marijuana and heroin in her purse at the privately operated Arizona State Prison in Kingman, according to Mohave County Sheriff's Office records.

Welch was handcuffed and read her rights before she told authorities that the marijuana was for her personal use, but that the heroin was not hers, though she refused to indicate for whom it was intended.

Brandon Lawrence, a narcotics task force detective who responded to the prison after the drug detection, conducted an interview with Welch.

Lawrence's report indicates that Welch said she had made three previous heroin deliveries to the prison and that she was paid $200 each time.

The report said Welch indicated she picked up the drugs in Phoenix from men she knew only as "Knuckles" and "Woodman." She presumed the men to be members or associates of the Aryan Brotherhood who told her she would be killed if she ever discussed the drug delivery activity, the report states.

Lawrence's report said he told Welch she would be charged through the county attorney's office and she was allowed to leave the prison.

Narcotics task force commander Jamie Clark said he could not comment on why Welch was not arrested.

U.S. Marshals have alleged Welch returned to the medium-security prison July 30 with a vehicle, weapons, cash, clothing and a tool the inmates used to cut holes in perimeter fences to make their getaway.

Police have linked the escapees to two truck drivers who were kidnapped at gunpoint and an Oklahoma couple who were killed in New Mexico.

Province and Renwick, both convicted killers, have been recaptured. The other two suspects were still at large Thursday.

Baffled federal authorities said Thursday that they have no idea where the couple is and warned travelers stopping at campgrounds and truck stops to be alert.

McCluskey and Welch are unpredictable and have long-haul truck driving experience, meaning they are used to driving long distances over short time periods, Fidencio Rivera, chief deputy U.S. Marshal for Arizona, said. Their route has crossed more than 1,900 miles from the July 30 escape to the last concrete sighting in Billings, Mont., last Friday.

"At this point in time, because they move so quickly and easily, we have no idea," Rivera said. "In 2½ days they could have traversed the entire United States. They can be anywhere."

Marshals are asking travelers at truck stops along highways and in campgrounds across the nation to watch out for the couple. They may be sleeping in campgrounds and using truck stops to clean up as they travel in a 1997 Nissan Sentra that has been described separately as gray, gold and tan, Rivera said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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