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Arizona fugitives linked to burned bodies in New Mexico

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Prison escapees linked to bodies
  • NEW: Forensic evidence links Arizona escapees to burned bodies found in New Mexico
  • NEW: One escaped inmate's stepfather says he'd shoot stepson
  • Two of three escapees are still at large
  • Authorities believe the pair have left Arizona but are still in the U.S.
  • Crime

Read more on this story from CNN affiliate KTVK.

(CNN) -- Police have forensic evidence linking a pair of escapees from an Arizona prison to the investigation of a couple found dead in New Mexico this week, an official with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety said Saturday.

The fugitives, who escaped from prison eight days ago, are suspects in the investigation into two burned bodies found in a camper Wednesday in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, according to Peter Olson, communications director for New Mexico Public Safety.

New Mexico police have yet to positively identify the burned bodies, but believe they are Linda and Gary Haas of Oklahoma, whose truck was found 100 miles away in Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to Olson.

Forensic evidence found in that truck links John McCluskey and Tracy Province, the two escaped prisoners, to the investigation into the burned bodies, Olson told CNN. He would not elaborate on the nature of the evidence.

Earlier Saturday, authorities arrested McCluskey's mother and charged her with aiding the escape.

Claudia Washburn, 68, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to facilitate escape and hindering prosecution, Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Henman told CNN.

The inmates, who authorities describe as armed and dangerous, have been at large since fleeing an Arizona prison on July 30.

Washburn allegedly provided "financial and other aid" to her son and the second escapee and to a woman who was helping them, Henman said. Washburn was arrested in Jakes Corner, Arizona.

A nationwide manhunt continues for McCluskey, 45, who was serving 15 years for attempted second-degree murder and other charges, and for Tracy Province, 42, who was serving a life sentence for murder and armed robbery.

The two are believed to have left Arizona but to still be in the United States, Henman said.

In an interview with CNN Arizona affiliate KTVK, Washburn's husband said that he'd shoot his stepson McCluskey if he saw him again.

"I told the U.S Marshals I haven't got that long to live," Jack Washburn said. "[I'd] serve my time."

"You think you're Bonnie and Clyde," he continued, referring to the two escapees. "You're not. No comparison."

A female accomplice helped Province, McCluskey and a third inmate, Daniel Renwick, escape by throwing cutting tools over a prison fence, said Charles Ryan, director of Arizona's Department of Corrections.

Authorities have identified the suspected accomplice as Casslyn Mae Welch, 43. Welch is Claudia Washburn's niece and is McCluskey's cousin and fiancée, KTVK reported.

Renwick was captured Sunday in Colorado after getting in a shootout with authorities.

After the break, the inmates and the accomplice abducted two truck drivers at gunpoint on Interstate 40 outside of Kingman, Arizona, and hijacked their 18-wheeler, according to the Mohave County sheriff's department in Kingman.

The truck drivers and the rig were released five hours later in Flagstaff, about 135 miles to the east.

The fugitives were later believed to be driving a 2002 silver Volkswagen Jetta purchased last Saturday in Phoenix. They were later spotted on a security camera in a bank inside a grocery store in Goodyear, Arizona, according to Barrett Marson, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

CNN's Chuck Johnston and Christine Sever contributed to this report.