Nation

Trial of Okla. couple’s murders opens

ALBUQUERQUE — John McCluskey was arrested wearing one of the victim’s caps. But his defense attorney Monday said prosecutors will be unable to prove that the escaped Arizona inmate shot and then incinerated a retired Oklahoma couple after they crossed paths with a trio of criminals at a highway rest area.

The government’s whole case, Michael Burt said in opening statements, hangs solely on the testimony of his two alleged accomplices: one a man who has a history of violent crimes and drug abuse, the other a woman who the defense team contends has repeatedly lied to investigators.

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Burt questioned their credibility, noting they both made deals with federal prosecutors and avoided the death penalty.

‘‘Our defense is going to be the government can’t prove without a reasonable doubt that John McCluskey pulled the trigger and killed Gary and Linda Haas,’’ he said.

John McCluskey is facing capital murder and 19 other charges in the 2010 carjacking and slaying of the retirees from Tecumseh, Okla.

Prosecutor Greg Fouratt said ‘‘unspeakable crimes’’ resulted from the tragic collision on Aug. 2, 2010, of the Oklahoma couple’s annual camping trip to Colorado with the flight of McCluskey, a fellow escapee, and an accomplice.

‘‘Ultimately this case is about the targeting, the carjacking, the shooting to death and the incinerating of a husband and wife,’’ said Fouratt.

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Fouratt said his team plans to call about 50 witnesses and jurors will be shown a few hundred exhibits, including photographs and audio and video clips. The trial is expected to last up to four months.

Associated Press

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