|A woman who spoke briefly with Tracy Province (left) at a church alerted police after recognizing him on television.|
Murderer is captured in Wyo.; second escapee, fiancee still on run
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — An escaped killer with a handgun and a hitchhiking sign expressed relief at his capture yesterday after 10 days on the run, while authorities searched to the north of this tourist-packed park for a second fugitive and his female accomplice, a self-styled “Bonnie and Clyde.’’
Tracy Province, 42, was caught 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.’’
The search for inmate John McCluskey, 45, and Casslyn Welch, 44, focused for a time on vast Yellowstone National Park, which straddles Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. More than 100 armed park rangers and federal agents searched the tourist-packed park yesterday.
But authorities believe the two fled the park, and agents are following leads in Montana.
“They consider themselves as Bonnie and Clyde,’’ US Marshal David Gonzales said at a news conference in Phoenix. “This is very, very serious business.’’
Province, McCluskey, and Daniel Renwick escaped from a private, medium-security Arizona State Prison near Kingman on July 30 after authorities say Welch threw wire cutters over the perimeter fence. Welch is McCluskey’s fiancee and cousin. Renwick, who turns 37 today, was captured in Colorado.
Efforts to find the remaining three intensified after they were linked to a double homicide in New Mexico, with the case airing Saturday on “America’s Most Wanted.’’
On Sunday, Province walked into Meeteetse Community Church, about 60 miles outside of Yellowstone, wearing blue jeans, a blue checkered flannel shirt, and a camouflage backpack slung over one shoulder, worshipper Jay Curtis said. Province looked like the many hitchhikers who pass through town.
“Just shook his hand and said ‘Welcome, welcome to our church,’ ’’ said Curtis, a member of the church band. “He just smiled and said: ‘Thank you.’ ’’
Province closed his eyes and sang along with the band, and seemed particularly engrossed when the band played “Your Grace Is Enough’’ by Chris Tomlin, Curtis said. After the service, Province walked across the street and sat down on the curb with his backpack, looking like a hitchhiker. Curtis said the church pastor then paid Province to mow and trim the church lawn. Province got $40 and a jacket, authorities said.
The town came alive Sunday night with word drifting around that the stranger at the church was a fugitive, Curtis said.
“It definitely made my wife and I and our children very nervous to think that was a convicted murderer in our town,’’ Curtis said. “We’re just not used to that.
“Little bitty Meeteetse, Wyo., — they roll the sidewalks up around here at 8:30 at night.’’
A woman who had chatted briefly with Province on the steps of the church on Sunday called police after recognizing him later on television, Gonzales said.
When marshals and other law enforcement officers arrested him, he initially denied being the fugitive, Gonzales said. He was carrying a 9mm handgun and a sign that read “Casper,’’ a city about 160 miles to the southeast, authorities said.
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.
Forensic evidence linked the two inmates and Welch to the killings of an Oklahoma couple. New Mexico State Police spokesman Peter Olson declined to elaborate. The skeletal remains of Linda and Gary Haas, both 61, were found in a charred camper Wednesday morning on a remote ranch in eastern New Mexico.