The female prison employee at the center of an investigation into the escape of two killers provided “equipment” to the pair, but not the power tools they are believed to have used to cut their way out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility, the local district attorney said Friday.
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said Joyce Mitchell did not provide the power tools used by inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat to cut their way through steel walls and steam pipes seven days ago at the prison in Dannemora, N.Y. However, Wylie said Mitchell, a supervisor in the prison’s tailoring shop, brought “contraband” into the prison but he declined to elaborate on what, specifically, she gave them. He said Mitchell can be criminally charged for her alleged role but no charges have been filed yet.
A police source close to the investigation confirmed to Fox News Friday that Mitchell planned to provide a getaway car for the two convicted murderers but had a change of heart at the last minute. Mitchell instead checked herself into a hospital some 40 miles away from the prison, complaining of panic attacks, according to law enforcement.
The Albany Times-Union reported late Thursday that Mitchell told New York State Police she gave Matt, 48, and Sweat, 34, access to a cell phone and smuggled tools into the prison.
Mitchell’s alleged confession was reported on the same day that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed that state law would come down hard on any prison system employee who crosses the line with inmates.
“If you do it, you will be convicted, and then you’ll be on the other side of the prison that you’ve been policing, and that is not a pleasant place to be,” Cuomo said. The governor also said investigators are “talking to several people who may have facilitated the escape.”
The Times-Union, citing a law enforcement official briefed on the case, reported that authorities expected to charge Mitchell with multiple crimes.
The paper also reported that Mitchell had been investigated in recent months by the state corrections department’s inspector general after a fellow prison worker complained that she had gotten too close to Sweat and Matt. That investigation did not result in any discipline. Prison employees and correction officers are prohibited from having relationships with inmates or performing favors for them.
There was no sign of Sweat and Mitchell early Friday, but law enforcement sources told the Times-Union that they believed the men were contained in an area near the prison, between the towns of Dannemora and Plattsburgh. The Associated Press source said the fact that Mitchell failed to pick the men up as promised was the main reason the investigation had been focused on an area so close to the prison.
The Press-Republican reported a possible sighting of the men Friday morning in Cadyville, where there is a heavy police presence. According to the newspaper, two men were seen jumping over a stone wall in the woods at approximately 7:30 a.m. Friday, though it’s not confirmed the two were Matt and Sweat.
Earlier Thursday, bloodhounds had picked up the men’s scent heading east from Dannemora after forest rangers who stopped at a convenience store late Wednesday discovered a trail leading to an area of the woods where the grass had been matted down. Authorities, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, descended on the town of Cadyville.
Law enforcement officers walking an arm’s length apart were conducting a grid search through a cordoned-off area consisting of mud, woods, thick underbrush and several houses, Sheriff David Favro said. He said there had been no reports of stolen or abandoned vehicles, break-ins or abductions.
Matt was serving 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of Matt’s 76-year-old former boss, whose body was found in pieces in a river.
Matt and an accomplice stuffed William Rickerson in a car trunk in his pajamas and drove around with him for 27 hours because he wouldn’t tell them the location of large sums of money he was believed to have.
According to testimony, Matt bent back the elderly man’s fingers until they broke and later snapped Rickerson’s neck with his bare hands.
After the killing, Matt fled to Mexico, where he killed a man outside a bar.
Sweat was doing life without parole for his part in the 2002 killing of sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Tarsia, who was shot 15 times and run over after discovering Sweat and two accomplices transferring stolen guns between vehicles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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