ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Arizona inmate who escaped from prison committed heinous crimes in the killings of an Oklahoma couple carjacked at a highway rest area while traveling through New Mexico, a federal prosecutor said Monday.
John McCluskey is facing 20 counts in the 2010 carjacking and slaying of Gary and Linda Haas, of Tecumseh, Okla. He's the last of three defendants to be tried in the case. The other two pleaded guilty and will likely testify during the trial.
Prosecutor Greg Fouratt said “unspeakable crimes” resulted from the tragic collision on Aug. 2, 2010, of the Oklahoma couple's annual camping trip to Colorado with the flight of McCluskey, a fellow escapee, and an accomplice.
“Ultimately this case is about the targeting, the carjacking, the shooting to death and the incinerating of a husband and wife,” said Fouratt, who said the Haases were married more than 40 years.
A defense attorney for McCluskey was also giving his opening statement Monday.
Despite admissions made to authorities following his arrest, McCluskey's defense team says he didn't kill the Haases and didn't intend for them to die that August day in eastern New Mexico.
Prosecutors plan to prove otherwise. They have indicated in court documents that as many as 100 witnesses could be called and they have more than 1,000 exhibits to show the jury, including photographs, and hours of audio and video.
An audience that included family and friends of the victims packed the courtroom for Monday's opening statements. The trial is expected to last up to four months.
It took nearly three weeks for attorneys to settle on a jury of eight women and four men. Dozens of prospective jurors were questioned about everything from their understanding of the justice system to their opinions about the death penalty.
McCluskey made no secret of his desire to steer clear of a trial and the death penalty. He agreed to plea negotiations earlier this year, but federal prosecutors said they were intent on moving toward trial.
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