It’s been more than one week since two murderers escaped from a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, and police are still scrambling to find them.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that for all anyone knew, the two murderers — 48-year-old Richard Matt and 34-year-old David Sweat — could be near or “in Mexico by now.”
With the search entering its second week, The Marshall Project talked to an expert who helped capture six inmates who escaped from a Texas prison in 2000.
John Moriarty led Fugitive Task Force operations at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and worked on dozens of escape cases. He told The Marshall Project that families are often key to catching escaped criminals.
“Families are a huge resource in catching fugitives,” Moriarty told The Marshall Project. “There is a tendency in law enforcement to get families upset, to act like a hard-arse with them. That’s not the way to handle them, they’re not the bad guys. So many times they’re the ones who have led us to escapees.”
Moriarty also said that other convicts in the prison might have useful information about what happened.
“Human intelligence is the key,” he said. “Electronic surveillance has caught a lot of people, but looking at a fugitive’s interactions is key.”
Authorities are using helicopters, ground searches, and tracking dogs to try to recapture the fugitives. Tips have been called in from as far away as Philadelphia and Vermont, but so far none of them have panned out. Towns the inmates might be hiding in have been locked down and subjected to roadblocks as police try to prevent the fugitives from moving freely.
Matt 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 was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff’s deputy.
Authorities believe the convicts planned to escape to an area that is about a seven-hour drive from the prison, but it’s now unclear where they might have gone.
The men are thought to be highly dangerous. Detective Gabriel DiBernardo told The New York Times that “you can never have enough security with” Matt or “turn your back on him” because of his great efforts to elude police. Matt escaped from a jail in Erie County in 1986.
Police believe the convicts had inside help in escaping. Authorities have charged 51-year-old Joyce Mitchell, who works as an industrial-training supervisor in the tailoring department, with criminal facilitation and promoting prison contraband. They believe Mitchell had a personal relationship with Matt.
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