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Woman accused in Tucson murder pleads guilty to manslaughter

November 18, 2021 GMT

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A woman who prompted a nationwide manhunt after escaping custody with her husband in 2019 has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a Tucson murder case.

Prosecutors said 61-year-old Susan Barksdale entered into a plea agreement Wednesday. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 10.

Her 58-year-old husband, Blane Barksdale, still is facing a first-degree murder charge and has a scheduled plea hearing Friday in Pima County Superior Court.

The couple was charged in connection with the disappearance of 72-year-old Frank Bligh, whose Tucson home burned down in an April 2019 explosion and fire.

Brent Mallard, the Barksdales’ nephew, already has pleaded guilty to arson in the case and has a Dec. 10 sentencing hearing.

Bligh’s body has never been found, but Tucson police classified it as a homicide case.

Authorities obtained arrest warrants after discovering the Barksdales allegedly pawned guns that belonged to Bligh before they fled Arizona.

The couple was arrested in New York by U.S. Marshals in May 2019, but escaped from a transport van during extradition to Tucson three months later.

After avoiding capture for 16 days, the Barksdales were located in northern Arizona and taken back into custody.