Woman Contests Sentence In New Mexico Murder Case

July 31, 2014

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The accomplice in an Arizona prison break said federal prosecutors broke an oral promise not to oppose a 20-year prison sentence in the murder of a couple in New Mexico, but the prosecutors said no such promise was made.

Casslyn Welch pleaded guilty to crimes that included carjacking resulting in death and conspiracy after the bodies of Linda and Gary Haas of Tecumseh, Oklahoma, were found with their burned-out camping trailer on an eastern New Mexico ranch in August 2010. She was sentenced to 40 years in prison in early June.

As part of a plea agreement, Welch testified against a co-defendant, John McCluskey. Her attorneys argue in court documents that federal prosecutors led Welch to believe they wouldn't disagree with a defense request for a 20-year prison term, even if they wouldn't advocate for it.

The defense attorneys are asking a judge to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether prosecutors acted in good faith and dealt fairly with Welch.

"That covenant, which obligated the government to treat Ms. Welch fairly and to act in good faith, was relied upon by Ms. Welch to her detriment," they wrote in court documents.

Prosecutors said Welch understood that she could face up to life in prison and that the judge ultimately would decide the extent of her punishment.

"The plea agreement in this case is clear: the government made no agreement to 'not oppose' a 20-year sentence or to stand silent at sentencing," prosecutors wrote in response to the defense motion.

U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera in New Mexico has not ruled on the request.

Welch has yet to be sentenced on charges stemming from the July 2010 prison break near Kingman. She admitted to throwing cutting tools over the prison fence that helped McCluskey, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick escape. She supplied the men with guns, money and a getaway vehicle, authorities said.

Renwick made off alone in the vehicle, but he was captured a day later after a shootout in Colorado.

Province, McCluskey and Welch hijacked a semi-truck at gunpoint in Kingman and ended up in New Mexico days later. All of them were recaptured by authorities.

Province and Welch said McCluskey was the triggerman in the Haas' death.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn has said he would sentence Welch after she resolves the federal charges. Under a plea agreement with Arizona prosecutors, she will receive 20 years in prison on an escape charge and two counts of armed robbery, to be served concurrently with the sentence in the federal case.