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Were fugitives in Arkansas?

Authorities doubt pair linked to Gentry robbery

By Arkansas Online Press Services

This article was originally published August 11, 2010 at 12:46 p.m. Updated August 11, 2010 at 9:04 p.m.

john-mccluskey-and-his-fiancee-casslyn-welch-the-us-marshals-service-said-they-have-changed-their-appearance-him-growing-a-beard-and-her-dying-her-hair-blond

John McCluskey and his fiancee, Casslyn Welch. The U.S. Marshals Service said they have changed their appearance - him growing a beard, and her dying her hair blond.

Kut and Kurl

A person with the Benton County sheriff’s office says there’s “no reason to believe” an escaped Arizona inmate and his fiancee are in a small Arkansas town.

Law enforcement agencies swarmed Gentry after a couple robbed a beauty salon there Wednesday.

But sheriff’s office spokesman Doug Gay says there’s no reason to think John McCluskey and Casslyn Welch committed the crime.

McCluskey, 45, and Welch, 44, have eluded authorities since he and two other inmates escaped from an Arizona prison July 30. They were last seen in Montana.

Gay says the Arkansas salon owner who was robbed says photographs of the couple don’t match the couple who were in her shop. And he says a relative of one of the fugitives no longer lives in Gentry.

But he says an extensive search is ongoing.

The man was described as approximately 35-40 years old, standing 6-5, wearing a baseball cap, jeans and a dark colored t-shirt. Police said he has a beard.

The woman is described as approximately 35-40 years old, around 5 feet tall, with reddish-brown hair in a pony tail. Police said she may also have a blue or green purse with short shoulder straps taken from the scene.

No injuries resulted from the robbery.

Both suspects are said to be armed with a semi-automatic hand gun.

Kut and Kurl salon owner Joyce Cook was alone in her salon in Gentry at about 10:45 a.m. when a couple entered and the young woman said she wanted a haircut.

Then the man pulled a gun, tied her up with rope and stole money.

“I just burst (out crying), before they even left, I was boo-hooing so hard,” said Cook, who in 35 years of running her business had never been robbed.

Cook was able to untie herself after the culprits left.

Fidencio Rivera, chief deputy U.S. marshal for the Arizona district, told The Associated Press on Wednesday the two apparently have changed their appearance.

“Welch has dyed her hair blond, McCluskey has dyed his hair black,” Rivera said.

The information was developed through interviews with people who last saw the couple, Rivera said.

Welch was last spotted Sunday at a restaurant in St. Mary on the eastern border of Glacier National Park.

Two of the escaped inmates already have been caught. New Mexico authorities have linked the group to the deaths of an Oklahoma couple whose bodies were found in their charred camper in eastern New Mexico a week ago.

Another prisoner who escaped with McCluskey was due in a Glenwood Springs, Colo., courtroom Wednesday. Daniel Renwick, who was serving two consecutive 22-year sentences for second-degree murder, was captured Aug. 1 in western Colorado.

A day earlier, the third escapee, Tracy Province, appeared in a Cody, Wyo., court and waived his right to fight extradition to Arizona. Province was caught Monday as he walked in sleepy Meeteetse, Wyo., steps from a church where he sat in the pews a day earlier and sang “Your Grace Is Enough.”

Province, McCluskey and Renwick escaped from the medium-security Arizona State Prison near Kingman on July 30 after authorities say Welch threw wire cutters over the perimeter fence. Welch, 44, is McCluskey’s fiancee and cousin.

Province was serving a life sentence for murder and robbery out of Pima County, Ariz. McCluskey was serving a 15-year prison term for attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm out of Maricopa County, Ariz.

The Arizona attorney general’s office on Monday charged McCluskey’s mother and ex-wife with helping the inmates after they escaped.

Forensic evidence linked the escapees to the killings of an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico. New Mexico State Police spokesman Peter Olson declined to elaborate.

The badly burned skeletal remains of Linda and Gary Haas — both 61 and from Tecumseh, Okla. — were found in a charred camper last Wednesday on a remote ranch in eastern New Mexico. Their pickup was found later 100 miles west in Albuquerque.

Any information on the suspects should be reported to the Benton County Central Communications at 479-271-5532 ext. 1.

Information for this article was contributed by NWA Media and Mark Carlson and Matt Volz of The Associated Press.

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