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Arizona authorities are scouring the state after a married couple wanted for the murder of an elderly Tucson man “overpowered” and escaped from security officers extraditing the couple from New York to Pima County.
Blane and Susan Barksdale, 56 and 59, respectively, escaped custody in Blanding, Utah, on Tuesday evening, according to a Tucson Police Department statement. The Barksdales, who are accused of murdering 72-year-old Frank Bligh in April, had fled Arizona earlier this spring.
The couple had previously been apprehended by U.S. Marshalls in Henrietta, New York, in May.
“We’re still hard at work trying to locate the Barksdales,” Frank Magos, public information officer for Tucson Police Department, told Oxygen.com.
Magos said that several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Marshals, and Apache County Sheriff’s Office, are also working alongside Tucson police to find the Barksdales.
“These two should be considered armed and dangerous ... ” Magos added. “So with that, we need the public to be aware and be cautious.”
After eluding their captors in Utah, the husband and wife stole the vehicle they were being transported in, which they later disposed of in northeast Arizona, authorities believe. The Barksdales were last spotted in a red GMC Sierra pickup truck with Arizona license plates, police said. The truck reportedly has a damaged rear bumper and front passenger side.
Magos was unable to elaborate on what exactly went down during the transport. The Barksdales were being transported by a private company from New York to Arizona, however, he said.
“That’s the question that everyone has been asking,” he said. “We were not given the details exactly of what transpired. Our main goal was to let the public know immediately that these two dangerous people were on the loose.”
Police and firefighters were dispatched to Frank Bligh’s house in April after his residence went up in flames, then exploded.
“There was a fire there — there were several explosions there, and when the fire was put out, they found that nobody was in the home,” Magos explained.
The elderly man, who police said lived by himself, was nowhere to be found.
A short time later, Bligh’s vehicle turned up in a remote desert area of Tucson. However, his body was never found. Police said that evidence uncovered in Bligh’s home and vehicle pointed to the Barksdales as suspects.
The couple reportedly knew Bligh, he added.
The Barksdales' nephew, Brent Mallard, is also implicated in Bligh’s murder, and is accused of carrying out the fiery destruction of the elderly man’s house.
Mallard was arrested on charges related to Bligh’s killing, including arson, burglary while knowingly possessing explosives, a deadly weapon, or dangerous instrument, as well as criminal damage, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com.
The couple’s Utah escape has startled Bligh’s family.
“We’re a little dumbfounded at the whole thing,” Bligh’s brother, William, told local outlet KOLD-TV. “I don’t understand why they would even transport them together.”
William told the CBS affiliate that his family lost touch with his brother in early April.
While William is hoping law enforcement can track down the Barksdales, he said he wants answers regarding his brother’s death, particularly where the alleged killers hid the body.
“We need some kind of closure,” Bligh explained. “We still don’t know. They won’t tell us what they did with the body. We have no clue at all what they did with him.”
He said the state of his brother’s home, now charred and empty, was a devastating sight.
“It was just a little heartbreaking, shall I say, to see it like that,” he added. “But we have a big void in life right now.”
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