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Testimony recalls suspect’s remorse

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Tracy Province completed his testimony for the prosecution in the capital murder trial of John Charles McCluskey on Wednesday with a few words in favor of his fellow prison escapee, fellow dog trainer and onetime bunkmate.

Although Province has said he has no doubt that McCluskey was the person who killed Gary and Linda Haas in their camper just a few miles north of Interstate 40 in August 2010, he also said McCluskey was very remorseful – so much so that his repeated apologies as they headed out of Albuquerque became onerous.

When he agreed to talk to authorities, it was fueled in large part by thinking about his own family. Province said his own parents had spent time motoring around in an RV after their retirement.

“I thought it was time to clear my conscience,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt played portions of taped interviews by law enforcement in which Province choked up describing how events unfolded. After stopping in the rural area, McCluskey told Province to take the Haases to the camper/trailer, then McCluskey’s girlfriend, Casslyn Welch, went in to search for guns they’d said they had and came out to hand a bag to Province. Province said he’d just put them into the cab of the pickup when he heard the shots. He went and looked in and saw the Haases dead, Gary Haas shot in the head.

“He said, ‘I couldn’t leave no witnesses,’ ” Province tells investigators on the tape. “The dogs came running out covered in blood. John said, ‘help me move him.’ I said, ‘I ain’t doing nothing mother(expletive).”

Province’s testimony has varied on the question of moving the body. He variously told investigators he refused to help or that he didn’t remember and it was possible that he had. He testified earlier this week helping to move a man who fell into a diabetic coma jogged his memory and now is certain that he did. He said he was only involved in moving Gary Haas’ body, not “bodies,” as suggested in defense questioning.

Province insisted that he had agreed to speak to authorities, and later to try to help investigators identify locales, because the (Haas) family had a right to know what happened.

Afterward, traveling in the Nissan Sentra they’d brought from Arizona while McCluskey drove the pickup, he told Welch, “He didn’t just kill them. He killed all five of us.”

The trial resumes after Labor Day.