A manhunt for the two convicted murderers who escaped from a maximum-security facility in upstate New York more than two weeks ago has expanded several times to include areas as far as 280 miles southwest of the prison — and now back to especially rugged terrain 20 miles west.
Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34 escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on June 6.
Matt was serving 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.
The search for the killers began close to the facility, which lies in a densely wooded area that authorities initially believed would have been difficult for the escapees to navigate.
By June 10, however, police had expanded their search to Vermont, where authorities were “making a special effort” based on information that suggested the escapees discussed Vermont as a possible location to flee to, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters during a press conference.
Police then descended upon the small town of Willsboro, NY, just across from Burlington, Vermont, in response to reports of two suspicious individuals there. They didn’t find any sign that the killers had been there, however, according to the Associated Press.
The manhunt remained concentrated relatively close to the prison until last weekend, when a woman in Friendship, NY — 280 miles southwest of Clinton Correctional — called in a tip that was deemed “credible” by police.
Police set up a search perimeter in the Friendship area along the New York-Pennsylvania border following other tips that two men fitting the descriptions of Sweat and Matt had been spotted walking near a rail yard on June 13, heading toward Pennsylvania.
“We will search under every rock, behind every tree and structure until we are confident that that area is secure,” State Police Maj. Michael J. Cerretto said at a news conference on Sunday.
The search switched gears dramatically on Monday when police reportedly discovered the convicts’ DNAinside a burglarized cabin 20 miles west of Clinton Correctional Facility.
Police re-focused their manhunt on the rural area of Owls Head, New York, after a witness reported seeing someone running into a wooded area near the cabin that had been broken into, CNN reported.
A pair of prison-issued underwear was found in the cabin, along with a jug of water and a tub of peanut butter, according to the New York Times. Boots and bloody socks were also found. Forensic evidence reportedly indicated that the men had been there within the last 48 hours.
The terrain around Owls Head is “very rugged — some of the toughest in New York State,” Jim Hall of Mountain View, a retired mason and certified Adirondack guide, told the New York Times. “There’s an awful lot of creatures out there — black bears, bugs galore.”
“If you’re not a woodsman you could die out there real easy,” he added.
Wilderness experts recently told Reuters that they were sceptical the two fugitives could survive the regions being searched.
“They can disappear very easily but to survive is another story and that’s really predicated on their plan and their equipment and, of course, their abilities,” Pat Patten, who was hired to help with the 2003 capture of Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph after more than five years on the run in the Appalachian Mountains, told Reuters.
“It’s a fallacy to think, unless they’re some kind of really exceptional person, that they could flee into the woods with nothing and make it,” added Patten, who now teaches tracking skills in North Carolina.
Michael B. Kelley contributed to this report.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.