State police moved their manhunt for two convicted murderers to an area west of the New York prison from which they boldly escaped more than two weeks ago, 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.
Acting Franklin County District Attorney Glenn MacNeill told WPTZ-TV Sunday that a person had been seen fleeing from a hunting camp in the area. Much of the county is within the Adirondack Park.
Inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt broke out of maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6 and up to 800 law enforcement officers have gone door to door checking houses, wooded areas, campgrounds and summer homes.
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.
Authorities contend that Joyce Mitchell, a 51-year-old prison tailoring shop instructor, helped the inmates escape by providing them with tools and agreeing to drive the getaway car.
She had allegedly befriended the prisoners but backed out at the last minute because she felt guilty.
“Basically, when it was go-time and it was the actual day of the event, I do think she got cold feet and realised, ‘What am I doing?'” Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said.
Here’s what else we know so far about the two criminals and their escape from Clinton Correctional Facility:
- 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.
- An unnamed law enforcement source told CBS News that investigators found DNA matching the suspects in a cabin that had been broken into near Saranac Lake in New York. Police are now searching the area along County Route 20 and Interstate 86.
- About 300 officers searched the towns of Amity and Friendship, where two men who resembled Sweat and Matt were spotted the day before near a railroad line that runs along a county road. Officials think the convicts might be “riding the rails.”
- Mitchell has been charged with criminal facilitation and promoting prison contraband. Authorities believe Mitchell had a personal relationship with Matt.
- The escape was elaborate, as acting state corrections commissioner Anthony Annuci said at a news conference: “They went onto a catwalk which is about six stories high. We estimate they climbed down and had power tools and were able to get out to this facility through tunnels, cutting away at several spots.” They then reportedly came out of a manhole outside prison walls.
- Officials believe the two men had mobile phones in the prison, likely provided by Mitchell, and rehearsed their plan before carrying it out.
- Authorities believe that Mitchell had planned to meet Matt and Sweat near the manhole to drive them to an area about seven hours away from the prison, but she backed out at the last minute and checked herself into a hospital for “nerves,” CNN reports.
- Matt and Sweat used 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. They’d put the vents back in place as they were doing this work, which might have taken place over a period of days or weeks, to avoid detection.
- Mitchell might have also provided the convicts with eyeglasses with lights attached to them to help make their escape, according to authorities.
- To power the tools they used to cut through the steam pipes they crawled through to escape, Matt and Sweat used extension cords and hot-wired electrical junction boxes, according to the Daily News.
- To keep prison guards from figuring out they were gone, the duo reportedly stuffed their beds with clothes to make it look like they were there. Corrections officers are supposed to do bed checks every two hours, according to The New York Times. The inmates were reportedly discovered missing at a 5:30 a.m. bed check.
- They left a note on one of the pipes. The yellow note had a smiley face and “have a nice day” written on it.
- Matt and Sweat were being held in an “honour block” of the prison, according to the Daily News. They were reportedly allowed to spend most of their time outside of their cells and working in a shop where they might have been able to gather the tools they used for their escape.
- The prison was undergoing construction work that contractors were brought in to carry out. Prisons have less control over contractors than they do over permanent staff members, Martin Horn, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, told Business Insider. “Outside contractors may or may not comply with [the protocols],” he said. “A worker might be reluctant to report the tool as being lost over fear of losing their job.”
- A source told the Daily News that prison guards would inspect the vehicles of contractors for contraband and prisoners hiding out, but would not keep a close watch over the tools the contractors had.
- Two witnesses reported seeing Matt and Sweat in their backyard after the pair escaped, according to ABC News. The backyard is near the manhole the men reportedly came out of. When the witnesses confronted the men, one of them reportedly said: “We’re just lost. We don’t know where we are. We’re on the wrong street.” They then both took off running, the witnesses said.
- The witnesses reportedly saw the men carrying a guitar case, which authorities believe the men used to carry the power tools that cut through the pipes.
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