Prison worker gave tools to NY jailbreak convicts

2015-06-12 21:18
The area where two convicted murderers used power tools to cut through steel pipes at a maximum-security prison in Dannemora, NY, near the Canadian border, leaving a note and escaping through a manhole. (Darren McGee, New York State Governor's Office

The area where two convicted murderers used power tools to cut through steel pipes at a maximum-security prison in Dannemora, NY, near the Canadian border, leaving a note and escaping through a manhole. (Darren McGee, New York State Governor's Office

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New York - A female prison worker smuggled tools into a maximum-security facility for two convicted killers, who cut their way to freedom a week ago, a prosecutor in New York said on Friday.

Joyce Mitchell "provided some form of equipment or tools" that allowed the two murderers to escape the prison in Dannemora village, Andrew Wylie, Clinton County District Attorney, told CNN.

"There is information as far as contraband that she did provide to both [Richard] Matt and [David] Sweat," he added.

Hacksaw blades, drill bits and two pairs of spectacles with attached lights were among the items Mitchell allegedly gave the convicts, CNN quoted two unnamed law enforcement sources as saying.

Wylie refused to detail exactly what she supplied, but told CNN that the married, middle-aged Mitchell appeared to feel "some guilt" about her responsibility in the escape from Clinton Correctional Facility.

"Each day we're learning a little bit more information as to her involvement in this case and how she built a relationship with these two men," he said.

Investigators have focused on how Matt, who dismembered his former 76-year-old boss, and Sweat, who shot dead a sheriff's deputy, acquired the power tools used to cut their way to freedom.

Officials have suggested that 51-year-old Mitchell may have been charmed by Matt, 49, and Sweat, 35, and agreed to pick them up by car from the manhole where they crawled to freedom.

Woman faces charges

Instead, she changed her mind and checked into a hospital - reportedly suffering from a panic attack - with her husband and son seemingly oblivious to her involvement.

Mitchell has been questioned daily and is co-operating, but has not yet been charged. Wylie told CNN that he intended to press charges at the conclusion of the investigation.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mitchell had also been under investigation in the last year for allegedly forming a relationship with Sweat while working together in a prison tailoring shop.

There was not enough evidence to take action, but Sweat was pulled out of the shop, the newspaper reported.

District schools remained closed for a second day Friday as hundreds of police combed thick woods and swamps around the prison.

One local newspaper, the Press-Republican, quoted Wylie as saying that dogs had picked up the convicts' scent Wednesday and traced it from outside a convenience store and gas station through the woods.

"Everybody needs to remain vigilant until we can confirm whether or not these guys are here or have left the area," state police spokesperson Jennifer Fleishman said on Thursday.

More than 500 police, prison guards, forest rangers, FBI agents, federal marshals and border officers, K-9 units and helicopters.

Dangerous men

"They are dangerous men. They are killers, they are murderers. There is no reason to believe they wouldn't do it again," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.

There is a $100 000 reward for information leading to their arrest, and the public has been warned to call 911 immediately if they spot anything suspicious.

Matt, 1.83m tall with multiple tattoos, was serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnapping and dismembering of his former boss in a 27-hour ordeal.

He fled to Mexico after the murder and killed an American, before being sentenced to 20 years and extradited back to New York.

Sweat was serving a life sentence without parole for murdering a sheriff's deputy in New York state in 2002 when he was 22 years old.

The pair's escape has been likened to Hollywood movies such as The Shawshank Redemption or Escape from Alcatraz.

After cutting through their cell walls with power tools, they crawled through an underground pipe system, coming up through a manhole and leaving behind a note saying "Have a Nice Day."

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