Escaped killer who hoped to be ‘bear food’ sentenced

By Reuters
Saturday, January 29, 2011 12:47 EDT
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SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) – A convicted murderer who broke out of an Arizona prison and led a multi-state manhunt last summer was sentenced to 38 years behind bars on Friday for a crime spree he hoped would end with bears devouring him at Yellowstone National Park.

Tracy Province, 42, was already serving a life sentence for murder and armed robbery on July 30 when he and two other inmates used wire-cutters to break through the perimeter fence of a medium-security prison in northwestern Arizona.

The fugitives hid out in the desert near Kingman, Arizona before embarking on what turned out to be a weeks-long rampage that held two truckers hostage in Arizona and left an elderly couple dead in New Mexico.

Province later told police his fear of capture led him to fantasize about fleeing to a mountain area like Yellowstone, where he planned to overdose on heroin and “be bear food,” according to a report by Mohave County Sheriff’s Detective Larry Matthews.

Province told Matthews his accomplices, whom authorities later identified as escaped killer John McCluskey and fiance Casslyn Mae Welch, dropped him off at an entrance to Yellowstone National Park, which spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

“He had planned to go up on the mountain and shoot (heroin) and be bear food,” Matthews wrote. “He wanted to overdose and let the bears eat him.”

Province credited divine intervention and cold weather for nixing a plan a Yellowstone official said even grizzly bears and black bears would balk at.

“A scenario like that is highly improbable,” said Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash.

“We had over 3.6 million visitors last year and this story confirms that each and every one had a unique reason for coming to the park.”

Province told authorities he was prevented from becoming part of the broader food chain when “a voice told him no.”

Matthews said in the report: “He changed his plans and wanted out of Yellowstone because it was cold.”

Province then hatched a plan to hitchhike to Indiana to see family.

He was nabbed by authorities on August 9 while wandering through the streets of Meeteetse, a town of 350 in northwest Wyoming near Yellowstone.

Federal law enforcement officials said Province was carrying a sign that said “Casper” and had a handgun.

Province pleaded guilty earlier this month to a slew of felonies, including escape, kidnapping, armed robbery and aggravated assault.

He faces murder charges in New Mexico stemming from the killing there of an elderly Oklahoma couple.

(Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)

Mochila insert follows.

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