As state police scramble to find two fugitive killers, officials are learning more about who may have helped the convicts break out of their cells more than two weeks ago.
Authorities now believe that escaped prisoners David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, may have had help from as many as four corrections officers at Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, the New York Times reports.
One officer, Gene Palmer, has already been placed on administrative leave.
Another prison employee, seamstress Joyce E. Mitchell, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly providing the inmates with cell phones, hacksaws and power tools. She has been charged with criminal facilitation and promoting prison contraband.
Matt and Sweat used the hacksaws to cut through steel walls around air vents near their cots to create the hole they would escape through, according to the New York Daily News. Authorities also believe Mitchell provided them with eyeglasses with lights attached to them.
The prison was reportedly plagued with security lapses resulting from a sense of complacency that had befallen civilian employees and corrections officers.
“As the months go by, years go by, things get less strict,” Keith Provost, a retired corrections officer who had worked at the prison for over 15 years, told the Times.
The inmates reportedly had “deep knowledge” of the prison’s construction and security weaknesses.
“It is not clear how the inmates knew from inside the steam pipe [they crawled through] what distance to crawl to reach the manhole cover that they would escape from, at the corner of Barker and Bouck Streets,” the New York Times notes.
It’s also unclear how they escaped from the steam pipe at all — suspiciously, there was a hole cut at the point where they escaped.
Sweat and Matt broke out of the facility on June 6.
Matt, 48, was serving a sentence of 25 years to life for killing and dismembering his former boss in 1997. He had fled to Mexico in the 90s after killing his boss. Sweat, 34, was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff’s deputy.
Up to 800 law enforcement officers have gone door to door checking houses, wooded areas, campgrounds and summer homes in search of the fugitives.
Over the weekend, state police had moved their manhunt for two convicted murderers to an area west of the New York prison, as officers began probing the latest reported sighting.
Investigators and military trucks converged on Mountain View, a hamlet in Franklin County, late Sunday. Just hours before hundreds had searched two towns more than 350 miles away, following an unconfirmed but credible report of another sighting.
The search is currently focused on a rural area about 20 miles away from the prison after their DNA was discovered inside a cabin.
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