Two convicted murderers who escaped a maximum-security prison more than three weeks ago originally planned to head to Mexico, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a New York radio program Monday.
Their plan fell through when the prison seamstress backed out of her promise to drive them there, according to Cuomo.
David Sweat, 35, who was shot twice in the torsonear the Canadian border but captured alive on Sunday, is being treated at Albany Medical Center and talking to investigators about the escape plan he concocted with Richard Matt, 49, who was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent on Friday.
Prison seamstress Joyce Mitchell allegedly agreed to drive a getaway car for the duo once they popped out of a manhole beyond the prison’s walls, but she apparently got cold feet and abandoned the plan.
“They would kill Mitchell’s husband, and then get in the car and drive to Mexico on the theory that Mitchell was in love with one or both of them,” Cuomo told “The Capitol Pressroom” radio program. “And then they would go live happily ever after, which is a fairy tale that I wasn’t read as a child. But we all believe what we want to believe.”
When Mitchell didn’t show up, Cuomo said, the escapees decided to head north towards Canada.
Mitchell was arrested on June 12 after she confessed to smuggling power tools into the prison to help Sweat and Matt escape.
Sweat reportedly told investigators that he and Matt had separated last Wednesday, two days before Matt was killed.
“Sweat actually disengaged from Matt about five days ago because Sweat felt that Matt was slowing him down,” Cuomo said. “Matt had blisters on his feet, and he was older, so that’s possibly the reason why he was slowing Sweat down.”
Evidence also suggests Matt had fallen ill from contaminated food or water, and police officers told CNN that he had likely been drinking heavily as his corpse smelled of alcohol.
When he was captured, Sweat was dressed in camouflage and had a backpack filled with supplies. He had reportedly been using pepper to throw police dogs off of his scent.
“He had maps, he had a certain amount of tools, he had bug repellent, he had wipes, he had Pop-Tarts,” Cuomo told CNN’s ‘New Day.’
Matt and Sweat escaped on June 6, using power tools to cut their way through the air ducts in their cell. They then scaled a catwalk and emerged from a manhole just outside of the walls.
Based on conversations with correctional officers, investigators believe the escapees had been collecting information from prison workers for over a year about the terrain and hunting cabins around the facility, according toCNN.
Matt was serving 25 years to life in prison for killing and dismembering his boss, while Sweat was serving life in prison without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy in 2002.
As of right now, Sweat stands to spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. Prison officials may reduce the amount of time he spends in solitary, however, depending on how cooperative he is with investigators.
“It’s a bargaining chip for him now,” Jeff Dumas, a retired sergeant at Clinton Correctional Facility, told CNN.
“Within the department, he’s going to be locked into a cell, 23 out of 24 hours a day, in solitary confinement. … He’s going to try to use that chip with New York state so he isn’t locked into 23 out of 24 (hours) for an extended period of time.”
Governor Cuomo reassured WCNY that Clinton Correctional, located in Dannemora, NY, “was no country club.”
“Dannemora had the reputation of being the toughest prison in the system,” he said. “There may have been a tendency among the guards in the honour block [where Matt and Sweat were housed for good behaviour] however, to become lax.”
Cuomo noted that the investigation of Mitchell and corrections officer Gene Palmer — who has been arrested and charged with promoting dangerous prison contraband — are ongoing.
“We are going to prosecute those cases to the full extent of the law,” he said. “If you help a convict escape, you will become a convict.”
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