Former fugitive couple pleads not guilty to Arizona killing

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TUCSON, A.Z. (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 on 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 August 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 September 11 in a remote Arizona area about 88 miles 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 October 21 case management conference.

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