Corrections official: Woman threw wire cutters over prison fence, aiding Ariz. inmates' escape

Three convicted murderers escaped a privately run prison in Arizona by using wire cutters that a woman threw over a fence, a state Department of Corrections spokesman said Tuesday.

Officials also said prison staff didn't realize the inmates were missing Friday until after sensors on the perimeter fence sounded and a 9 p.m. head count, which came five hours after the three were last accounted for by prison staff.

The woman who authorities say helped in the escape is Casslyn Mae Welch, 44, of Mesa — the fiancee and cousin of John McCluskey, one of the three inmates. She was waiting outside the prison in Kingman as the inmates breached a perimeter fence with the wire cutters and escaped, said department spokesman Barrett Marson.

A security camera captured Welch driving a blue sedan around the facility that holds minimum- and medium-security inmates.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan has said "lax" security created an opportunity for the men to escape. He's scheduled to meet with representatives of the prison operator, Utah-based Management and Training Corp., on Wednesday, Marson said.

"We are going over everything that happened during the night of the escape, and many issues will be addressed with MTC," Marson said.

A spokesman for MTC, Carl Stuart, declined to comment on security at the 3,508-bed facility.

The local sheriff's office wasn't alerted until more than an hour after prison staff discovered the three were missing, and state corrections officials found out about the escape at 11:37 p.m., Maroon said.

Daniel Renwick, 36, was captured Sunday in western Colorado.

Tracy Province, 42, the 45-year-old McCluskey and Welch had kidnapped two drivers of a semi-truck in Kingman early Saturday morning and traveled in the rig to Flagstaff, where they left the drivers unharmed, authorities said. The three remain at large and are believed to be together in Arizona, said U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Thomas Henman.

Province was serving a life sentence for murder and robbery, and McCluskey was serving 15 years for second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm. Renwick was serving a 22-year sentence for second degree murder.

Renwick was being held Tuesday in a Colorado jail on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, vehicular eluding, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and felony escape. His bail is set at $2.5 million.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson in Colorado said his office is reviewing the case and will decide whether to file charges by Aug. 11.

"He's presumed innocent," Beeson said. "But if what we have seen in the reports is true, then I would say you're not going to come into my jurisdiction, shoot at officers and not be taken to task for it. My intent is, if we have business to do, we will do it, and accomplish it, and then we would be glad to turn him over to whomever wants him."

According to an arrest affidavit, a Garfield County, Colo., sheriff's deputy noticed a vehicle with its lights off in a church parking lot and found that it matched the Arizona license plate of a Chevy Blazer connected with the fugitives.

Another officer noticed the vehicle pulling out of the parking lot and chased it for three miles on an interstate until Renwick slowed down and exited. Renwick shot through the rear window of the Blazer, and Rifle, Colo., police Officer William Van Teylingen said he heard objects hitting his car.

Teylingen rammed Renwick's vehicle, which came to a stop in a hotel parking lot. Teylingen's airbag activated in his cruiser and by the time he got out, Renwick was lying on the ground behind the cruiser.

Teylingen found a rifle in the Blazer and a hole in a headlamp on his cruiser.


Banda reported from Rifle, Colo.