Convicts practised escape plan night before prison break
One of two convicted murderers who broke out of a maximum-security prison last month told police that they conducted a practice run the night before their daring escape, even poking their heads out of a manhole before deciding they were too close to nearby homes, a district attorney said.
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said David Sweat, 35, told police from his hospital bed that he masterminded the June 6 breakout from Clinton Correctional Facility and began working on it in January.
The escape by Sweat and 49-year-old Richard Matt launched a massive 23-day manhunt in forested northern New York terrain involving more than 1,100 law enforcement officers.
Matt was shot and killed by a border patrol officer June 26. Sweat was wounded Sunday by a state trooper near the Canadian border.
He was listed in fair condition Wednesday.
Wylie said Sweat claimed he used only a hacksaw blade — not power tools, as officials had reported — to cut holes in the steel walls of his and Richard Matt’s adjoining cells as well as a steam pipe they crawled through.
Sweat said he prowled the tunnels within the maximumsecurity prison from 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. — after lights-out and before the morning headcount — in the days preceding the escape, according to Wylie, who was briefed by state police on the surviving inmate’s statements.
Wylie said Sweat claimed to have done all the work himself, saying the older Matt wasn’t in shape to do it.
Authorities said the two reached the tunnels via narrow corridors behind cellblocks providing access to the bowels of the prison and were given access by a corrections officer who has since been charged in connection with the breakout.
On their practice run before the escape, the men poked their heads out of a manhole but decided to exit the next day through a manhole that was slightly more isolated.
Even then, it was in the middle of an intersection just a block from the prison walls.
Officials have said a tailor shop employee, Joyce Mitchell, got close to Sweat and Matt and supplied them with hacksaw blades and other tools.
She agreed to be their getaway driver but backed out at the last moment, authorities said. She has pleaded not guilty. The prison's superintendent, his deputy and 10 other Clinton employees have been placed on leave.
Police stand over David Sweat after he was shot and captured near the Canadian border Sunday.