A married couple being extradited across the country to face murder charges allegedly faked an ‘intestinal issue’ medical emergency so they could escape and go on the run in Arizona.
Blane Barksdale, 56, and his wife, Susan Barksdale, 59, have been on the run since they managed to escape from a prison van after it departed from Blanding, Utah on Monday.
Authorities say Susan pretended to have an intestinal issue in the back of the privately operated prison transport van and forced the two security guards to stop.
‘It was compelling enough that they felt the need to pull over,’ David Gonzales, the U.S. marshal for Arizona, said of Susan’s so-called medical emergency.
Blane Barksdale, 56, and his wife, Susan Barksdale, 59, have been on the run since they managed to escape from a prison van after it departed from Blanding, Utah on Monday
The guards, a male and female, were unarmed and didn’t feel the need to take a handgun that was inside a locked box when they went to open the rear compartment of the van.
The couple charged the guards as soon as the door was opened, Gonzales said.
The male and female guards weren’t physically injured but the Barksdales used shoelaces to bind them and then put them in the back of the van with a third inmate.
They also took a key to free themselves of a waist restraint.
Gonzales said that even though Blane ‘is not a big guy’, he could be ‘very imposing’.
‘I don’t think these two guards were equipped physically and emotionally with the experience needed for these types of individuals,’ Gonzales said.
The Barksdales drove the van to the town of Vernon, Arizona, where they met up with a friend who gave them access to his red GMC pickup truck.
The friend has not been charged but law enforcement continues to question him over his involvement.
From there, each drove away in a vehicle for about 40 miles and abandoned the van near the town of St. Johns, Arizona.
The Barksdales had initially been taken into custody on May 24 near Rochester, New York, on suspicion of first-degree murder and other crimes related to the April death of a 72-year-old man in Tucson, Arizona
The Marshals Service on Wednesday offered a $20,000 reward – $10,000 for each suspect – for information leading to their arrest
The couple then took off with the little money the guards had in their wallets.
Gonzales said they were likely unaware of the handgun, which was still in its box.
The guards and the third prisoner were left behind.
‘This other prisoner, he wanted no part of this deal. He was very forthcoming,’ Gonzales said.
The Barksdales are suspected of slaying 72-year-old Frank Bligh (pictured) in April in Tuscon, Arizona. While Bligh’s body has not yet been found, evidence in his car indicate he is likely dead
It took the guards two to three hours to break free and they eventually kicked out some windows of the van.
By the time authorities reached the area, the Barksdales had been gone for several hours. The third prisoner has since been taken to his intended destination – a southern Arizona jail.
The Barksdales had initially been taken into custody on May 24 near Rochester, New York, on suspicion of first-degree murder and other crimes related to the April death of a 72-year-old man in Tucson.
Tucson police say a fire followed by an explosion broke out in April at the home of Frank Bligh before his car was found abandoned the next day.
While his body has not been found, investigators say evidence in the car indicated he was likely dead.
The Barksdales were later identified as suspects.
Gonzales said multiple agencies including the FBI and Tucson police are interviewing people from Arizona to New York.
The Marshals Service on Wednesday offered a $20,000 reward – $10,000 for each suspect – for information leading to their arrest.
Tucson police say a fire followed by an explosion broke out in April at the home of Frank Bligh before his car was found abandoned the next day. The Barksdales were later identified as suspects
He believes they are somewhere in the Southwest, possibly Arizona or New Mexico. He also thinks they likely have since shed their prison uniforms.
‘In any crime or situation like this, somebody knows something. Sometimes a reward can be that little push to make a call to us,’ Gonzales said.
Gonzales said Blane has a criminal history and his arms are covered in tattoos, including swastikas. He served two prison terms, according to online records. He spent nearly eight years in Arizona prisons for theft and drug convictions dating to 1984. He was released in January 1993.
He also was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a 2003 federal marijuana possession convictions in Taylor County, Kentucky, and was released in early 2012, according to records.
In a letter to the judge in the Kentucky case, Blane said he was thankful that he didn’t receive a stiffer sentence.
‘I sir, will not ever make you regret giving us this second chance either,’ he said in the handwritten letter.
After his release he married Susan in December 2013.
Officials in Pima County, where Tucson is located, announced on Wednesday they were suspending use of the transport company, Security Transport Services, pending a review of the escape.
A spokeswoman at the Topeka, Kansas-based company did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday.