Arizona officials want answers about killers’ escape from private prison

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Elected officials and residents are alarmed that three convicted killers escaped from a northwest Arizona prison that was built on a promise that it would house low-level offenders.

“Three murderers escape at once, I just can’t imagine that,” Mohave County Board of Supervisors Chairman Buster Johnson said about Arizona State Prison outside Kingman.

The prison is operated by Management & Training Corp., a Utah-based company, under a contract with the state.

“This facility was not built to handle high-risk inmates and that really bothers me,” said Johnson, who formerly worked in a maximum security prison in California. Johnson has asked for a meeting allowing company and Department of Corrections representatives to explain changes in the inmate mix to the sheriff and other local officials.

Arizona Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, said she wants to know who approved higher risk inmates and when they began to be housed at the prison.

Management & Training opened the 1,400-bed prison in August 2004. An additional 2,000 beds were added in April.

“This escape on the heels of that is concerning,” said prisons Director Charles Ryan. “We are concerned about the operation of the Kingman private prison.”

Ryan said four agency investigators were dispatched to the prison after the escape and another six-member team of investigators will join them this week.

“Our concern is that there were alarms that went off that indicated that there had been a breach and it was not detected,” Ryan said. “Staff may not have been as diligent as necessary in performing their duties.”

Convicted murderers Tracy Province, 42, John McCluskey, 45, and Daniel Renwick, 36, escaped the prison. Ryan said it is believed they cut a hole in the fence and escaped about 9 p.m. Friday.

Sheriff Tom Sheahan said the incident wasn’t reported to his department until about 10:19 p.m. Ryan said they were presumably picked up by McCluskey’s fiancee, Casslyn Mae Welch.

McCluskey, Province and Welch abducted two truck drivers on Interstate 40 just a few miles west of Kingman, police said. They drove east to Flagstaff where the drivers were released, police said. The truck was abandoned about 5 a.m. Saturday. Ryan said it is believed that the trio traveled to Phoenix and that they are still thought to be in Arizona.

Renwick was captured after a police pursuit in Rifle, Colo., about 12:50 a.m. Sunday.

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