KINGMAN, Ariz. — A judge on Friday sentenced an inmate who escaped from an Arizona prison last summer to more than 38 years in prison, but acknowledged the punishment meant little for a man already serving life for prior crimes.
Tracy Province pleaded guilty this month to state felony charges of escape, kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault and misconduct with weapons. His sentencing clears the way for him to be sent to New Mexico, where he faces capital murder and carjacking charges in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple.
He walked into the courtroom for the sentencing smiling and nodded to a U.S. marshal's officer he recognized in the back row from a previous transport.
"Long way from Wyoming," Province said, referring to the state where he was captured without incident on Aug. 9, a day after he dropped by for Sunday services at a church and was recognized by a woman who chatted with him. He told Arizona authorities that he had planned to overdose on heroin at Yellowstone National Park and let bears eat him to end the fear he felt while on the lam, but decided to try to hitchhike to Indiana instead.
He already was serving a life sentence for murder and robbery when he and two others escaped from the medium-security prison in Kingman on July 30. Authorities alleged Casslyn Welch aided the men by throwing cutting tools over the prison's perimeter fence, allowing them to flee into the desert.
"Tracy understands that any sentence the court gives him is not going to make a difference," said Province's attorney Ron Gilleo.
But prosecutor Victoria Stazio said the sentence mattered to two semi-truck drivers "who unfortunately crossed paths with Mr. Province and his accomplices," and did not know whether they would live or die. Authorities have said Province, fellow convict John McCluskey and Welch took a vote and decided to spare the truck drivers' lives, leaving them in Flagstaff and continuing south.
Province, who appeared carefree during the sentencing, said "You're welcome" in response to Stazio's comment. He and Welch were the dissenting votes.
Mohave County Judge Steven Conn ordered Province released to the state Department of Corrections, but said that wouldn't prevent authorities from taking him to Albuquerque, N.M., where he was scheduled for arraignment on Feb. 2.