Jurors Hear Angry Recording in NM Murder Trial

An angry and demanding John McCluskey, a convict on trial for the killing of an Oklahoma couple after escaping from prison, told his girlfriend to collect drug debts and play by his rules if she wanted to stay with him, according to a recorded phone call heard by jurors on Thursday.

Prosecutors played the conversation between McCluskey and Casslyn Welch as she spent her fourth day on the witness stand detailing the events that led to the shooting deaths of the couple in 2010.

On the call, his temper flared after he learned that Welch, who is also his cousin, failed to collect on a drug debt. McCluskey said she must follow his rules if she's going to be with him.

"If you aren't going to live with me by my rules, then you live by yourself," he is heard saying on the recording. "I cannot depend on anybody but you."

Welch has testified that she would smuggle heroin and marijuana to McCluskey in prison, and he would sell it to other inmates. Welch would collect payments from relatives and friends of the buyers on the outside, with the proceeds helping finance McCluskey's prison break.

Asked why she followed his orders, Welch said, "I just did what I was told. He told me. I supported it."

McCluskey is facing federal carjacking and murder charges in the Aug. 2, 2010 deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla. If convicted, he faces either life in prison or the death penalty.

The Haases' bodies were found incinerated in their travel trailer on a remote ranch in eastern New Mexico. The slayings happened three days after Welch said she helped McCluskey and two other inmates escape from a privately run, medium security prison near Kingman, Ariz.

One of the inmates was caught a day later in Colorado, but Welch, McCluskey and his former prison bunkmate Tracy Province were the targets of a nationwide manhunt.

Attorney Gary Mitchell pointed to Welch's testimony, saying it didn't match what she had told investigators in the days following her arrest. He said it was Welch who initially took credit for targeting the couple and for the idea to burn their trailer — with their bodies inside — to get rid of evidence.

It was also Welch, he said, who smuggled heroin and marijuana into two Arizona prisons so McCluskey could sell to his fellow inmates and eventually bankroll his escape.

"It wasn't done without you being involved," Mitchell told Welch.

Prosecutor Greg Fouratt said Welch acknowledged earlier this summer that she lied under oath about the extent of the drug smuggling operation. The summary of what happened when the victims were carjacked and killed remained unchanged, he said.

Welch is expected to finish testifying Thursday.

She pleaded guilty last year to carjacking resulting in death, conspiracy, use of a firearm during a violent crime and other counts. She could face up to life in prison.


Follow Susan Montoya Bryan on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/susanmbryanNM

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