Lawyer for family of couple allegedly killed by escapees: This is about accountability

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PHOENIX – The family of an Oklahoma couple allegedly murdered by two escapees from a private prison last summer has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Corrections and Management and Training Corporation, the Utah-based company that ran the prison.

Javier Soto sat down with Jacob Diesselhorst, the Oklahoma personal-injury lawyer who is representing Cathy Byus, the only daughter of Gary and Linda Haas.

Early last August, the Haases were traveling in New Mexico when they allegedly encountered convicted felons John McCluskey and Tracy Province, who had escaped from a private medium-security state prison near Kingman a few days earlier.

Police believe McCluskey and Province, along with Casslyn Welch, McCluskey’s cousin and fiance, killed the couple. The charred remains of Gary and Linda Haas, both 61, were found with their burned-out camper near Santa Rosa, N.M.

Diesselhorst, who officially filed the wrongful-death suit Thursday, said the lawsuit is about accountability.

The suit alleges that “numerous glaring and egregious security errors and omissions of the Defendants MTC and the State/ADC” allowed the McCluskey and Province, along with a third inmate, to escape from the prison, leading to the murders of Gary and Linda Haas.

“This is about accountability and about justice,” Diesselhorst said. “If the state of Arizona is going to contract out private prisons, there are standards that still have to be maintained. … This is a public-safety issue.

“The purpose of the lawsuit is to hold these people accountable. These criminals will be held accountable in criminal courts. These companies -- Management and Training Corporation, the Arizona Department of Corrections -- the only place to hold them accountable is in civil court.”

McCluskey, Province, and Welch are facing capital murder and carjacking charges.