A couple who robbed Kut and Curl beauty salon in Gentry, Ark., fits the description of John McCluskey and his fiancee, Casslyn Welch, said David Gonzales, the U.S. Marshal for Arizona. The town of about 2,000 is in northwest Arkansas, nearly 1,600 miles from the small Montana town where the pair was last spotted on Sunday.
Benton County sheriff's spokesman Deputy Doug Gay said his agency received an alert a couple of weeks ago to watch for the escapees because Welch has relatives in the area.
The couple may have been spotted Sunday, but Gay said the robbers didn't appear to have a vehicle, Gay said.
''They were on foot as best as I could discern,'' Gay said.
The Benton County Sheriff's Department said it is investigating the robbery, but U.S. Marshals there haven't positively identified the couple.
"We're trying to use any means possible - surveillance cameras, anything possible to determine (their identifications)," said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Gary Gray of the Western District of Arkansas. "Right now, Benton County is working this incident as a crime that happened in their jurisdiction. In the event it is tied to something else, we're all working together on this."
McCluskey, 45, and Welch, 44, have eluded capture since he and two other inmates escaped from an Arizona prison on July 30.
Then on Wednesday, federal officials thought they had a breakthrough: McCluskey and Welch may not be in Montana after all, but in Arkansas, where Welch's mother lives.
Kut and Kurl salon owner Joyce Cook was alone in her salon in Gentry at about 10:45 a.m. when a couple entered and the young woman said she wanted a haircut.
Then the man pulled a gun, tied her up with rope and stole money.
''I just burst (out crying), before they even left, I was boo-hooing so hard,'' said Cook, who in 35 years of running her business had never been robbed.
Cook was able to untie herself after the culprits left.
Welch was last spotted Sunday at a restaurant in St. Mary, Mont., on the eastern border of Glacier National Park and authorities thought the couple may be trying to cross into Canada. Interpol issued an international alert for the two Wednesday.
Since then, authorities had not had any credible leads in the northern Montana valley near the Canadian border, where Glacier National Park meet the vast, open Great Plains.
Authorities were focusing on the Canadian border and speculated they may have crossed into Canada.
"We've had multiple, I guess you could call them leads, that we've checked out in the area. In layman's terms, none of those have panned out," Glacier County Undersheriff Jeff Fauque said. "Tremendous resources have been spent on this search; hopefully they are caught really soon."
Two of the escaped inmates already have been caught. New Mexico authorities have linked the group to the deaths of an Oklahoma couple whose bodies were found in their charred camper in eastern New Mexico a week ago.
Fidencio Rivera, chief deputy U.S. marshal for the Arizona district, told The Associated Press Wednesday the two apparently have changed their appearance.
"Welch has dyed her hair blond, McCluskey has dyed his hair black," Rivera said.
The information was developed through interviews with people who last saw the couple, Rivera said.
Another prisoner who escaped with McCluskey was due in a Glenwood Springs, Colo., courtroom Wednesday. Daniel Renwick, who was serving two consecutive 22-year sentences for second-degree murder, was captured Aug. 1 in western Colorado.
A day earlier, the third escapee, Tracy Province, appeared in a Cody, Wyo., court and waived his right to fight extradition to Arizona. Province was caught Monday as he walked in sleepy Meeteetse, Wyo., steps from a church where he sat in the pews a day earlier and sang "Your Grace Is Enough."
Province, McCluskey and Renwick escaped from the medium-security Arizona State Prison near Kingman on July 30 after authorities say Welch threw wire cutters over the perimeter fence. Welch, 44, is McCluskey's fiancee and cousin.
Province was serving a life sentence for murder and robbery out of Pima County, Ariz. McCluskey was serving a 15-year prison term for attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm out of Maricopa County, Ariz.
The Arizona attorney general's office on Monday charged McCluskey's mother and ex-wife with helping the inmates after they escaped.
Forensic evidence linked the escapees to the killings to the killings of an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico. New Mexico State Police spokesman Peter Olson declined to elaborate on Wednesday.
The badly burned skeletal remains of Linda and Gary Haas - both 61 and from Tecumseh, Okla. - were found in a charred camper last Wednesday on a remote ranch in eastern New Mexico. Their pickup was found later 100 miles west in Albuquerque.