Witness: Slayings stemmed from lie about guns

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm •  Published: September 18, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The slaying of an Oklahoma couple who were abducted from a New Mexico rest stop and burned after being shot to death stemmed from a lie about whether they had guns inside their travel trailer, a key prosecution witness testified Wednesday.

A defense attorney asked Casslyn Welch, the cousin and girlfriend of defendant John McCluskey, why McCluskey didn't let Gary and Linda Haas go free, as he had with a pair of truckers kidnapped shortly after McCluskey and two other inmates escaped from an Arizona prison with Welch's help.

Welch acknowledged that she told investigators shortly after her arrest that the lie about the guns had set McCluskey off.

"I've seen less set him off," Welch said in the recorded interview that the defense played for jurors.

Defense attorney Gary Mitchell grilled Welch about whether there was a conversation between McCluskey and Gary Haas inside the trailer before the couple were shot. She testified earlier this week that she heard nothing coming from inside the trailer after previously telling investigators she heard Gary Haas' voice.

Mitchell pointed to Welch's inconsistencies, saying she has established a pattern of lying to investigators and prosecutors and has tried to diminish her role in the crimes by shifting blame to McCluskey.

Mitchell also accused Welch of changing her story when it became clear she could negotiate a plea agreement with prosecutors. However, Mitchell did not challenge Welch's statements that McCluskey was the triggerman.

Welch pleaded guilty last year to carjacking resulting in death, conspiracy, use of a firearm during a violent crime and other counts. She has yet to be sentenced but could face up to life in prison.

After getting choked up, she reiterated Wednesday that taking responsibility for her role in the carjacking and slayings was "the right thing to do."

Under questioning by the defense, Welch said the plan had been to target someone with a truck and travel trailer so the trio could "get off the grid." The plan didn't involve killing anyone, she said.

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