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Murder fugitives had a big head start on law enforcement

Guards locked in prison van
Posted at 7:55 PM, Aug 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-30 12:06:25-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Husband and wife murder suspects from Tucson had several hours head start before anyone knew they had escaped from custody.

That's the word from the US Marshals Service for Arizona.

Blane and Susan Barksdale were being transferred from New York State -- to Tucson -- when they faked a medical emergency, overpowered guards and escaped.

Blane and Susan Barksdale were tracked down and captured in upstate New York back in May. Authorities were taking no chances. US Marshals and a local SWAT team made the arrest.

The two are wanted for the murder of Frank Bligh. He disappeared from Tucson in April. Another man is charged with arson for burning Bligh's house. Bligh's car was found empty, but with signs that made Tucson Police feel he was killed.

Bligh's brother William feels an extra pain that his brother's remains have never been found.

"My sister and I, we both have come to reserve that they're never going to find him. I mean the way we're looking at he's God's hands right now. He's taken care of there."

Pima County hired private contractors to move the Barksdales from New York state to Tucson. In Utah the couple overcame the guards, drove the van to St Johns Arizona and took off in a red pick-up.

They had plenty of time before anyone even knew they'd escaped. US Marshals say it was several hours before the guards could break out of their own van's holding cell and call for help.

David Smith, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal for Arizona described the prisoner van: "It's intended for transporting prisoners so you can't just open the doors. There's locking mechanisms to prevent that from happening and so I don't know exactly what it took for them to break out, that's not part of our fugitive investigation so I know it took some time."

Chief Deputy Smith says now investigators are tracking the way the Barksdales might sustain themselves on the run. Who could be helping them? Where do they eat, sleep and find transportation and where could they go next?

Smith hopes the Federal reward of $20,000 for both Barksdales will prompt someone to turn them in.