Victim's family reacts to McCluskey verdict

Created: 12/11/2013 10:11 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

He escaped from prison and killed an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico in 2010.

On Wednesday - more than three years later -  John McCluskey escaped the death penalty.

A federal jury simply couldn't reach a unanimous sentencing decision for McCluskey on Wednesday. Because of that, he will not be put to death.    

Instead, he will spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering Gary and Linda Haas as they travelled through New Mexico.

For the victims' families, it's the final chapter in a long battle.

"The holidays are a little tough because that seemed to be the time we got together," said Talford Perkins.

Perkins is Linda Haas' little brother.

"Linda and Gary were probably two of the finest people I ever met," he said.

Especially at this time of year, Perkins lets his mind walk backward, to remember Linda.

Perkins says, Linda was the strong one, the one who always looked out for him, the big sis who bought him model cars each year on his birthday, until he was 16.

"She told me that I had grown up and I didn't need the cars anymore, sorry," Perkins recalled.  

That year instead, he got a 1972 Grass Roots record album from his big sister.   

Perkin showed it to the federal jury in Albuquerque who convicted Linda's murderer John McCluskey in October.

He was there every day of the trial.

"There were a lot of parts that were difficult especially the pictures the autopsy photos and things like that," said Perkins.

In the end, the jury convicted McCluskey of murdering Linda and her husband Gary Haas. But when it came to deciding his fate, on Wednesday the jury split.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 doesn't know how many jurors wanted the death penalty, and neither does the prosecutor.

"Certainly we'd like to know what the split was," said US Attorney Steve Yarborough. 

McCluskey's attorney Gary Mitchell spoke to reporters after the decision on Wednesday afternoon.

"We wish to thank the jury in this case. Life is always so precious," said Mitchell.

Perkins knows it too. Life is precious. Maybe too precious to stay angry.

"We got a murderer off the street for the rest of his life. And we can't go back and change anything now so we just have to move on," said Perkins.

U.S. Attorney Yarborough said he hopes to meet with jurors soon to find out why they couldn't agree, sparing McCluskey the death penalty.

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