A husband and wife being transported across the country to face murder charges used a medical emergency ruse and then overpowered two security guards, tied them up, and left them and a third uninvolved prisoner outside a rural Arizona town, authorities said Thursday. David Gonzales, the US marshal for Arizona, tells the AP that a privately operated prison transport van had departed from Blanding, Utah, on Monday afternoon when Susan Barksdale pretended to have an "intestinal issue." "It was compelling enough that they felt the need to pull over," Gonzales says. The guards were unarmed and did not feel the need to take a handgun that was inside a locked box. But Susan and Blane Barksdale charged at them once they opened the rear compartment, the marshal says. The male and female guards weren't physically injured, Gonzales says, but the Barksdales used shoelaces to bind them and then put them in the back with a third inmate.
They also took a key to free themselves of a waist restraint. 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. From there, each drove away in a vehicle for about 40 miles and abandoned the van near the town of St. Johns, Arizona, taking the money from the guards' wallets and leaving them and the third prisoner behind. It took the guards two to three hours to break free, eventually kicking out some windows. The Marshals Service on Wednesday offered a $20,000 reward—$10,000 for each suspect—for information leading to their arrest. Gonzalez believes they are somewhere in the Southwest, possibly Arizona or New Mexico. He also thinks they likely have since shed their prison uniforms. The Barksdales were arrested May 24 near Rochester, NY, on suspicion of first-degree murder and other crimes related to the April death of a 72-year-old man in Tucson.
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