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Husband and wife murder suspects plead not guilty

Barksdales escaped and were fugitives for 16 days
Posted at 2:38 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 22:37:28-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - A Tucson couple who broke out of custody then were captured by authorities after a manhunt that lasted longer than two weeks appeared in court Thursday.

Blane and Susan Barksdale, who are accused of killing Frank Bligh and burning down his home in April, entered not guilty pleas in Pima County Superior Court. They will next appear at 9 a.m. Oct. 21 for a case management conference.

Both are locked up in Pima County Jail on a $1 million bond.

The U.S. Marshals Service captured Blane Barksdale and Susan Barksdale Sept. 10.

Blane Barksdale was on a list of the 15 Most Wanted Fugitives in the nation.

The US Marshals led the arrest effort after the Barksdales -- a married couple -- overwhelmed two civilian guards who tried to bring them from New York State to Tucson.

Authorities found the Barksdales at Punkin Center on the edge of the Tonto National Forest.

Now in the Pima County Jail they were headed to before the escape, the Barksdales were arraigned Thursday September 19 on the original murder charge.

Blane Barksdale stayed in the jail and appeared in court through a video link——standard for arraignments in Pima County but an especially good idea in the case of a man charged with breaking free and staying on the run for more than two weeks.

In court facing a murder charge in the death of Frank Bligh he was polite and had a little trouble when Judge Lee Ann Roads asked him to confirm the spelling of his name on his indictment.

“Ma’am I don’t have my glasses. I can’t see it." he told Judge Roads. She said, "I’ll spell it for you. Will you listen and tell me if I have it correct?”

Judge Roads entered a non-guilty plea for Barksdale. That’s standard at such an early part of a case.

Susan Barksdale appeared a few minutes later, also by video link from the jail.

As with Blane Barksdale, Judge Roads needed to verify the spelling on the indictment. She said, ""In the top, left corner of the indictment is that your true name spelled correctly?"

Susan Barksdale : “Yes ma’am, it is.”

The judge also entered a non guilty plea for Susan Barksdale.

Near the end of the hearing a woman stood up and identified herself as Susan Barksdale’s daughter.

Court rules prevent us from showing anyone in the audience and defendants are not able to see the audience on the video link. The woman asked Judge Roads to pass on her love. She did. Susan Barksdale said, "Thank you so much. I love her."

Judge Roads: "She heard you say that and I want to let you know that she says she loves you back,”

At this point it is not clear whether the Barksdales will stand trial together in the murder case. That could become more clear in their next court appearance set for October 21st.