Cops: Captured Inmate Wishes He'd Have Killed Us

An unattended campfire and a suspicious forest ranger led to the arrest of two of the most wanted fugitives in the U.S., ending a three-week nationwide manhunt that drew hundreds of false sightings, authorities said.

John McCluskey fled July 30 with two other inmates from a private prison in northwest Arizona and evaded authorities in at least six states before being caught Thursday evening just 300 miles east of the prison.

Authorities arrested McCluskey, 45, and his alleged accomplice Casslyn Welch, 44, at a campsite in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona.

Welch, who is McCluskey's fiancee and cousin, reached for a weapon but dropped it when she realized she was outgunned by a swarming special weapons police team, said David Gonzales, U.S. marshal for Arizona.

Arizona Fugitives Captured

McCluskey was in a nearby sleeping bag and taken into custody without incident, though Pat McReynolds of CBS station KPHO reports he apparently told the arresting officers he would have tried to grab his gun and kill them if given the chance.

It was a peaceful close to a manhunt that authorities had said was likely to end in a bloody shootout between officers and desperate outlaws who fancied themselves as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.

"The nightmare is over, but it is still continuing. There's a lot more for law enforcement to do," Gonzales said, referring to investigations into crimes the pair may have committed while on the road, including the possible slaying of a couple in New Mexico.

"We want to tie them to as many crimes as we can," Gonzales said. "We want to ensure that the New Mexico murders are looked at carefully, working with those agencies. And if there are any more crimes that were committed while they were out, we want to make sure we tie those to them."

The fugitives' ruse began to crumble about 4 p.m. Thursday when a U.S. Forest Service ranger investigated what appeared to be an unattended campfire, Gonzales said. He found a silver Nissan Sentra backed suspiciously into the trees as if someone were trying to hide it.

The ranger had a brief conversation with McCluskey, who appeared nervous and fidgety. A police team and surveillance unit surrounded the campsite and swarmed on the fugitives, Gonzales said.

According to Gonzales, McCluskey, "said he should have killed the parks service officer when he had the chance."

Sgt. Richard Guinn of the Apache County Sheriff's Office told CBS' "The Early Show" on Friday that it was still unclear how long the couple had been at the campsite or in their district. He said his department was alerted to the suspects' presence at about 4:30 a.m., and by 7:10, had them in handcuffs.

"Their demeanor was one pretty much of resignation," Guinn, who was at the scene for the arrests, told "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill.

McCluskey and Welch were being held in the Apache County Jail in St. Johns.

A photo released by authorities showed McCluskey wearing dirty blue jeans and no shirt with an "Arizona" tattoo across his chest.

"I hope the citizens of Arizona and the nation can rest easier this evening," said state Corrections Department Director Charles Ryan.

Authorities will spend Friday combing the campsite looking for any evidence that could link the fugitives to other crimes during their time on the run.

Gonzales said investigators looked into 700 tips from nearly every state in a manhunt that had officers swarming into small towns from Montana to Arkansas. Authorities said the trail had gone cold since McCluskey and Welch were last seen Aug. 6 in Billings, Montana.

It's unclear how long they were in Arizona, but Gonzales said authorities suspected they might return to the state they know best.

Corrections officials have said that Welch helped McCluskey and fellow inmates Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick escape from the private prison near Kingman, Arizona, by cutting through a security fence.

Renwick was recaptured in Rifle, Colorado, on Aug. 1, and Province was found in Meeteetse, Wyoming, on Aug. 9.

Renwick and Province were serving time for murder. McCluskey was serving a 15-year prison term for attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm.

Province, McCluskey and Welch have been linked to the slayings of Gary and Linda Haas, whose burned bodies were found in a travel trailer Aug. 4 on a remote ranch near Santa Rosa, New Mexico. They had been traveling to Colorado on an annual camping trip.