Pri­son worker de­nies help­ing killers es­cape as man­hunt en­ters eighth day


A fe­male pri­son worker pleaded not guilty Fri­day to al­legedly help­ing two killers es­cape a max­i­mum­se­cu­rity New York state jail, as a mas­sive po­lice man­hunt slipped into an eighth day.

More than 800 state, lo­cal and fed­eral agents combed thick woods east of the max­i­mum-se­cu­rity jail where Richard Matt, 49, and David Sweat, 35, used power tools to cut their way to free­dom.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have fo­cused on the prob­a­bil­ity that Matt, who was con­victed of dis­mem­ber­ing his 76-year-old for­mer boss, and Sweat, who shot dead a sher­iff’s deputy, had in­side help in pulling off last Satur­day’s es­cape.

Joyce Mitchell, 51, who worked at a pri­son tailor­ing shop, was ar­rested and charged with “pro­mot­ing pri­son con­tra­band” and crim­i­nal fa­cil­i­ta­tion.

Hand­cuffed and vis­i­bly ner­vous, Mitchell ap­peared in court late Fri­day dressed in a lime-green T-shirt and wear­ing black-rimmed spec­ta­cles, stand­ing next to her lawyer in a brief ar­raign­ment.

Her lawyer en­tered a plea of not guilty and she was re­manded into cus­tody un­til Mon­day.

Mitchell “pro­vided some form of equip­ment or tools” that al­lowed the mur­der­ers to es­cape, Clin­ton County dis­trict at­tor­ney An­drew Wylie ear­lier told CNN.

Her ar­rest was “one large piece of the puz­zle” in the hunt for the duo, Ma­jor Charles Guess of New York State Po­lice told a press con­fer­ence.

“We have a mes­sage for David Sweat and Richard Matt. We’re com­ing for you and we will not stop un­til you are caught,” he added.

‘Danger­ous and des­per­ate’

Me­dia re­ports have said Mitchell’s hus­band, an­other pri­son em- ployee, is also be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for pos­si­ble in­volve­ment in the pri­son break.

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

Of­fi­cials sug­gest that Mitchell was charmed by Matt and Sweat, and agreed to pick them up by car from the man­hole where they emerged.

In­stead, she changed her mind and checked into a hos­pi­tal — re­port­edly suf­fer­ing from a panic attack.

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

Po­lice said wet weather and the rolling wood­lands where the search is fo­cused were com­pli­cat­ing the ef­fort — but also worked against the pair.

“If they have not es­caped the area or they have not availed them­selves of shel­ter, we’ve got to as­sume they’re cold, wet, tired and hun­gry,” Guess told re­porters.

“I would ad­vise and re­mind the com­mu­nity and the res­i­dents that that makes th­ese in­di­vid­u­als even more danger­ous and des­per­ate.”

Au­thor­i­ties “do not have any con­clu­sive ev­i­dence that ei­ther of the in­mates has left this area,” he added.


Joyce Mitchell is ar­raigned in City Court in Platts­burgh, New York on Fri­day, June 12.

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