Former fugitive couple plead not guilty to Arizona killing

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Blane Barksdale, Susan Barksdale

Blane Barksdale, left, and Susan Barksdale, right, are seen during a video arraignment in Pima County Superior Court, on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, Tucson, Ariz. The Barksdales, wanted in connection with a homicide in Tucson, had escaped custody during transport from upstate New York back to Tucson. They were recaptured on Sept. 11. (Rebecca Sasnett/Arizona Daily Star via AP, Pool)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A couple arrested after a 16-day escape from extradition to southern Arizona to face charges in a Tucson murder pleaded not guilty in the case Thursday.

Blane Barksdale, 56, and his 59-year-old wife, Susan Barksdale, had a video arraignment in Pima County Superior Court.

The couple is facing multiple charges including first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, arson, felony criminal damage and auto theft in April 16 death of 72-year-old Frank Bligh in Tucson. His body has yet to be found.

The Barksdales were arrested in upstate New York in May and escaped Aug. 26 while being transported back to Tucson to face charges in the Bligh case.

Authorities said the couple overpowered two private security guards in the transport van and tied them up with shoelaces after Susan Barksdale faked a medical emergency in Blanding, Utah.

From there, the Barksdales drove the van with the guards in the back into Arizona. Once they got to the middle of the state, around the tiny town of St. Johns, they picked up a friend’s pickup truck.

The couple drove both vehicles to a remote area outside town and abandoned the van, according to authorities, who said it took the security guards more than two hours to free themselves.

The Barksdales were arrested Sept. 11 in a remote Arizona area about 88 miles (141 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix.

FBI officials have said the couple likely will face federal kidnapping charges after tying up the security guards.

Blane Barksdale was listed on the U.S. Marshals Service’s 15 Most Wanted list days before he was arrested in Arizona with his wife.

The couple’s next scheduled court appearance is an Oct. 21 case management conference.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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