ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An escaped Arizona convict killed an Oklahoma couple following a prison break because he didn't want any witnesses to the carjacking and theft of their travel trailer and pickup truck, his former bunkmate and accomplice testified Wednesday.
In his third day on the stand in the capital murder trial of John McCluskey, Tracy Province said McCluskey told retirees Gary and Linda Haas that he wasn't going to hurt them, and that he only wanted their truck, cash and guns.
Province said McCluskey made it sound as if he were going to leave the couple in the New Mexico desert following their abduction from a highway rest stop in August 2010, but not too far for them to walk for help.
Instead, Province said, McCluskey took the Tecumseh, Okla., couple into the trailer and shot them.
According to court records and testimony, the escaped convicts and their accomplice then drove to a more remote spot and set the trailer on fire, with the Haases' bodies inside.
"People didn't deserve that," Province said in a recorded interview that was played for the jury.
Province then testified that he cooperated because he wanted the authorities and the victims' family to know what happened and where it happened.
Province also testified that he met with McCluskey's attorneys to tell them that their client wasn't "a real terrible guy" and had expressed remorse for the killings.
During the time the convicts were on the run, Province said McCluskey helped an elderly woman pump gas "out of kindness because that's how he was raised." He described McCluskey as respectful.
On Tuesday, McCluskey's defense tried to discredit Province, pointing to his criminal history, drug use and inconsistent statements.
Prosecutor Greg Fouratt said Wednesday that from the time Province was arrested seven days after the murders, he never denied his involvement in the carjacking and robbery that led to the deaths. He also had admitted his role in the disposal and incineration of the couple's bodies in the travel trailer.
With the jury out of the room, prosecutors said they planned to introduce a series of photographs and a video that showed the burn site as well as items found among the charred debris, including bone fragments, bullet casings and Linda Haases' wedding ring. The defense called the evidence "highly inflammatory and prejudicial."
Prosecutor Mike Warbel told the judge that the video and photos were all related to the investigation and McCluskey's actions.
"The jury should see the damage that was done, the crime scene and what was left of the victims," he said.
The judge did not immediately rule but watched the 8-minute video clip before calling the court into recess. As the video played, Haas family members seated in the front row wiped tears from their eyes.
Vivian Haas, the 83-year-old mother of Gary Haas, said Wednesday that it was hard to watch. She said her son had plans to come home to Missouri and take care of her and the family farm.
"You just never know from one day to the next," she said.
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