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Arizona judge rejects inmates’ transfer

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Efforts by federal authorities to transfer three inmates from northwest Arizona to New Mexico to stand trial in the slayings of two people have been stalled.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steve Conn ruled Wednesday afternoon that the two state prison escapees and the woman alleged to have aided their breakout shall remain in the county jail.

Reports released by federal authorities said John McCluskey, 45, Tracy Province, 42, and Casslyn Welch, 44, made admissions about their involvement in the slayings of Oklahoma couple Gary and Linda Haas two days after Welch is alleged to have helped McCluskey and Province escape from the state prison in Golden Valley, Ariz.

The three face escape charges in Mohave County and other charges involving a truck hijacking. Federal authorities have charged them with murder in New Mexico.

Deputy county attorney Victoria Stazio told Conn on Wednesday that her office, thinking federal authorities could dictate the prosecution sequence, was willing to hand over the defendants. Stazio said that research showed otherwise and that her office now wants to keep the trio in Arizona for local prosecution.

McCluskey’s attorney, John Pecchia, said his client opposes the transfer to New Mexico. Pecchia objected when Linda Mott of the U.S. attorney’s office in New Mexico argued in favor of the transfer Wednesday.

Conn agreed that Mott had no standing to address the court because she is not licensed to practice law in the state of Arizona. Conn said that his review of case law suggests that the federal and local jurisdictions are on equal footing and that neither can trump the other in terms of dictating the sequence of prosecution.

Conn said another federal prosecutor licensed in Arizona could try to revive the matter in the near future.

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