Modern-day Bonnie and Clyde John McCluskey and Casslyn Welch were arrested Thursday night at an isolated campsite in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in southeastern Arizona after a tip from an as-of-yet unidentified local forest ranger reported seeing the pair.
“He is a true hero,” Apache County Sheriff Joseph Dedman said of the ranger, according to AP reports. “He made contact. He was out there doing his job when he saw these two fugitives.”
McCluskey and Welch were captured after a nearly three-week, nationwide manhunt that had frustrated authorities.
It is not known where the fugitives had traveled over the last three weeks. They are suspects in numerous crimes, including the brutal murder of a couple in New Mexico.
McCluskey and Welch are scheduled to appear in court Friday afternoon.
McCluskey and two other inmates escaped from a private prison in northwest Arizona on July 30 before finally being caught Thursday night. The other two inmates, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick, were caught within 10 days of the initial escape.
Webb Hogle of the Apache County sheriff’s department said McCluskey and Welch were outside of their tent and completely surprised when law enforcement officials moved in to arrest them at dusk. He told McCluskey to “get down,” and, when he did not comply, Hogle said he tackled him to bring him to the ground.
According to other officials, Casslyn Welch reached for a gun but immediately dropped it. The arrest went down without a hitch, and there were no injuries. Welch is McCluskey’s cousin, and reportedly his fiance.
Law enforcement officials said investigators looked into more than 700 tips from nearly every state in a manhunt that had police officers on the lookout throughout the Southwest. Authorities said the trail had gone cold since the two were reported seen on Aug. 6 in Billings, Mont.
The three-week-long nationwide manhunt for this modern day Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple had gripped the country, and many thousands of families are breathing sighs of relief all across Arizona and New Mexico. Law enforcement officials are also much relieved, as criticism about their inability to locate the couple and public pressure to find the fugitives had been rising to a fever pitch.
Now, attention turns to prison officials in New Mexico regarding how this prison escape happened in the first place. There are several reports of multiple security lapses at the prison in rural New Mexico that made the escape possible. The three inmates escaped with the help of wire cutters that Welch simply tossed over the fence into the prison yard, and the inmates cut a hole in the fence to make their getaway.