Suicide by Bear? Fugitive in Yellowstone Apparently Considered It

In this photo provided by the Hot Springs County Sheriff's Department, Convicted killer Tracy Province is shown on Monday, Aug. 9, 2010 in in Thermopolis, Wyo.
AP Photo
Arizona Fugitive Planned Suicide By Bear, Says Report
Tracy Province (AP Photo, file)

(CBS/AP) A convicted killer who escaped from an Arizona prison said after his capture that he had planned to overdose on heroin at Yellowstone National Park and let bears eat him, to end the fear and panic he was experiencing while on the run.

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Tracy Province told Mohave County sheriff's detective Larry Matthews that he had wanted to go up on a mountain, inject a gram of heroin and "be bear food." As he was preparing the drug, he claims a voice told him not to go through with the plan, and he changed course in favor of trying to hitchhike to Indiana to see family.

"He called it divine intervention," Matthews wrote in an August report.

Al Nash, a spokesman at Yellowstone National Park, said it's certainly possible that Province's plan would have worked, but it struck him as improbable.

"We have a fair number of bears in the ecosystem," Nash said. "They eat about anything. A bear would rather get an easy meal than a difficult meal, but human bear encounters are very infrequent."

Authorities say after escaping an Arizona prison last July, Province asked fellow convict John McCluskey and their alleged accomplice, Casslyn Mae Welch, to take him to Yellowstone, so they drove him to the Wyoming park. 

Their travels took them to the Phoenix area to get clothing and to an eastern Arizona Walmart to buy sleeping bags, and they got turned around in Oklahoma and Texas, Province said in the interview first reported Thursday, Jan. 27 by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The trio face capital murder and carjacking charges in New Mexico, where they're accused of killing an Oklahoma couple and burning their bodies inside a camping trailer.

Province has pleaded guilty to Arizona charges of escape, kidnapping, aggravated assault and armed robbery.

He was scheduled to appear before a federal judge in New Mexico Wednesday to face capital murder charges in the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas, of Tecumseh, Okla.

Province, McCluskey and a third inmate, Daniel Renwick, escaped from a minimum-security prison near Kingman, Ariz. on July 30. Authorities say Welch helped them flee by throwing cutting tools over the perimeter fence.

Province told Matthews about his plan to commit suicide after he was returned to Arizona following his Aug. 9 capture in the sleepy town of Meeteetse, Wyoming.

He was serving two life sentences for murder and robbery and told Matthews he fantasized about fleeing but became nervous after scaling a fence topped with barbed wire and cutting through another fence. The trio's escape went unnoticed for hours.

"He didn't know why anyone would want to escape because all you do is look over you(r) shoulder the entire time," Matthews wrote.