Pima County suspends contract with private company after murder suspects escape

Blane and Susan Barksdale escaped from a van operated by Security Transport Services earlier this week

Pima County suspends contract with private company after murder suspects escape

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has suspended its contract with a prisoner transport company after two Tucson murder suspects escaped earlier this week.

The PCSD said it will not use Kansas-based Security Transport Services until the department can review the incident.

On Monday, Aug. 26, Blane and Susan Barksdale were being transported to Pima County from New York. The couple overpowered two guards in Blanding, Utah, and drove away with the transportation van.

The Barksdales then made it to St. Johns, Arizona, where they ditched the van and drove away in a red pick-up truck.

No one knows where the Barksdales are now, but authorities have said they should be considered armed and dangerous. The couple is accused in the death of 72-year-old Frank Bligh in April 2019.

The PCSD said its contract with STS expires in November 2019 and that STS was bringing the Barksdales to Pima County “at the behest of the Pima County Attorney’s Office."

Blane and Susan Barksdale (Source: Tucson Police Department)
Blane and Susan Barksdale (Source: Tucson Police Department) (Source: Tucson Police Department)

STS inked its first contract with Pima County in 2016 and makes an average of $1,000 for every prisoner transported.

The PCSD released the following stats that shows how often the county used STS and how much it costs taxpayers.

  • 2016 -- 15 inmates transported
  • 2017 -- Around 100 inmates transported at approximate cost of $117,200
  • 2018 -- Around 100 inmates transported at approximate cost of $117,800
  • 2018 -- Around 70 inmates transported at approximate cost of $88,500

The PCSD said it is one of eight counties in Arizona to use private companies for inmate/prisoner transportation. The reason it uses a third-party for the services is simple -- cost.

“The last extradition in which the (PCSD) sent personnel to retrieve an inmate cost us just under $2,500,” the PCSD said in a news release.

The PCSD said it will not be able to use another transportation company in the meantime because doing so would violate the county’s rules on contract procurement.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.