Two fugitives who overpowered guards and escaped in a prisoner transport van near Blanding, Utah, were captured Wednesday night in a remote area northeast of Phoenix, according to the Arizona U.S. Marshal’s Office.
Blane Barksdale, 56, and Susan Barksdale, 59, were being extradited from Henrietta, New York, to Pima County, Arizona, when they escaped Aug. 26. One of them faked an illness to get the guards to stop and open the van. They then overtook the guards, tied them up with shoelaces and commandeered the vehicle. The guards were placed in the back of the van along with another prisoner.
They couple are homicide suspects in connection with the Tucson slaying of 72-year-old Frank Bligh on April 16.
A 16-day search in northern Arizona involved multiple state and federal agencies that combed through hundreds of tips, Arizona U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said during a news conference Wednesday morning in Phoenix.
A tip led them to the a residence at Tonto Basin, near Theodore Roosevelt Lake in the Tonto National Forest.
Fifty law enforcement officers with air support and dozens of vehicles surrounded the home and put a spotlight on it.
They kept their distance and used loud speakers to call out the suspects. Susan Barksdale came out sobbing and was arrested. When Dale Barksdale eventually emerged, he became agitated, would not comply with police orders, and began cursing and using obscene gestures, officials said. He was tased and shot with bean bag rounds then arrested.
The suspects were taken to the a prison in Florence, and were transported to the Tuscon jail to face murder charges.
U.S. Marshals, the FBI, local city police and Arizona county sheriffs cooperated in the successful end to the manhunt, Gonzales said.
He said investigators believed the couple were hiding out in the rugged, remote country of Navajo County and in Apache County, east of Snowflake along the Arizona-New Mexico border. They later found refuge with an acquaintance at a residence at Tonto Basin in Gila County.
“It came down to a citizen who called and had an indication about a good place to look,” Gonzales said.
The Barksdales were put on the nation’s 15 most wanted list, and federal authorities offered a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to Blane Barkdsdale’s arrest and up to $10,000 for Susan Barksdale’s arrest.
The tipster was not identified and is eligible for part of the award, authorities said.
Several people are being investigated for potential charges related to harboring a wanted fugitive, officials said. The Barksdales face additional charges including escape and kidnapping.
The rugged, remote area where the couple were found is known as a hideout for drug offenders and criminals, officials said.
“It is a challenge in these remote areas where they can lay low for a long time and stay under the radar,” said Navajo County Sheriff David Clouse. Manhunts in remote areas rely on community knowledge of the landscape, and are a lot different than searches in urban locations, he said.
Law enforcement thanked the media for getting the word out about the escape and manhunt and said cooperation between agencies was key in capturing the fugitives.
During their escape, the couple drove the prisoner transport van to Vernon, Arizona, then obtained a red GMC Sierra pickup. The couple drove both vehicles to a remote area and abandoned the van. It took the guards two hours to free themselves and call in the escape.
The whereabouts of the pickup is unknown, officials said. The truck has damage to the front passenger side and rear bumper, with Arizona license plate 127XT.
The investigation of Bligh’s death began after Tucson firefighters responded to a fire at his east-side home in the 3500 block of South Calexico Avenue on April 16.
Police later determined the fire was set intentionally, according to the Tucson Daily Star, and investigation led to the arrest of the Barksdales. Detectives also believed that more than 100 firearms were stolen from the residence.