The Norman Transcript

August 20, 2013

Capital murder trial begins for fugitive

By Susan Montoya Bryan
The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — John McCluskey was arrested wearing one of the victims’ baseball caps. But his defense attorney said Monday prosecutors will be unable to prove that the escaped Arizona prison inmate shot and then incinerated a retired Oklahoma couple after they crossed paths with a trio of criminals at a highway rest area.

The government’s whole case, Michael Burt said in opening statements, hangs solely on the testimony of his two alleged accomplices: one a man who has a history of violent crimes and drug abuse, the other a woman who the defense team contends has repeatedly lied to investigators.

Burt questioned their credibility, noting they both made deals with federal prosecutors and avoided the death penalty.

“Our defense is going to be the government can’t prove without a reasonable doubt that John McCluskey pulled the trigger and killed Gary and Linda Haas,” he said.

McCluskey is facing capital murder and a number of other charges in the 2010 carjacking and slaying of the retirees from Tecumseh.

Prosecutor Greg Fouratt said “unspeakable crimes” resulted from the tragic collision on Aug. 2, 2010, of the Oklahoma couple’s annual camping trip to Colorado with the flight of McCluskey, a fellow escapee, and an accomplice.

Fouratt said his team plans to call about 50 witnesses and jurors will be shown a few hundred exhibits, including photographs and audio and video clips.