Search con­tin­ues, pri­son worker charged in es­cape


The mas­sive man­hunt for two con­victed killers re­sumed Satur­day on the morn­ing af­ter a worker at an up­state New York max­i­mum­se­cu­rity pri­son was charged with smug­gling in hack­saw blades, chis­els, a punch and a screw­driver bit to help the men es­cape.

More than 800 law en­force­ment of­fi­cers have joined the search, con­cen­trat­ing in a ru­ral area near the Canadian bor­der around the Clin­ton Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity in Dannemora. Res­i­dents in the area re­ported see­ing two men jump­ing a stone wall on Fri­day.

Searchers had clear skies as the re­sumed their search Satur­day, af­ter a stormy night that saw the pri­son worker ac­cused of help­ing the men es­cape ap­pear be­fore a judge in hand­cuffs. The es­capes, David Sweat and Richard Matt, are still on the run eight days af­ter cut­ting them­selves out of the max­i­mum­se­cu­rity pri­son with power tools.

Pri­son tai­lor shop in­struc­tor Joyce Mitchell, 51, was ar­raigned late Fri­day night on a felony charge of pro­mot­ing pri­son con­tra­band and a mis­de­meanor count of crim­i­nal fa­cil­i­ta­tion. Her lawyer, Keith Bruno, en­tered a not guilty plea on her be­half.

Mitchell is ac­cused of be­friend­ing in­mates Sweat and Matt and giv­ing them the con­tra­band, ac­cord­ing to crim­i­nal com­plaints. Pros­e­cu­tor An­drew Wylie said ear­lier the con­tra­band didn’t in­clude the power tools the men used to cut holes in their cell walls and a steam pipe to es­cape through a man­hole last week­end.

Mitchell was or­dered held in jail on US$100,000 cash bail or US$200,000 bond. She was moved to a jail in an­other county Satur­day morn­ing at the re­quest of the Clin­ton County sher­iff and is due back in court Mon­day morn­ing.

Mitchell has a job with a yearly salary of US$57,697, over­see­ing in­mates who sew clothes and learn to re­pair sewing ma­chines at the pri­son. She has been suspended with­out pay.

Within the past year, of­fi­cials looked into whether Mitchell had im­proper ties to the 34-year-old Sweat, who was serv­ing a life sen­tence for killing a sher­iff’s deputy, Wylie said. He gave no de­tails on the na­ture of the sus­pected re­la­tion­ship.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion didn’t turn up any­thing solid enough to war­rant dis­ci­plinary charges against her, the pros­e­cu­tor said.

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.

On Thurs­day, a per­son close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said Mitchell had be­friended the two men and agreed to be the get­away driver but never showed up. The per­son was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the case and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

A for­mer slipper-fac­tory em­ployee who won three terms as tax col­lec­tor in her town near Dannemora, Mitchell has worked at the pri­son for at least five years, ac­cord­ing to a neigh­bor, Sharon Cur­rier. Mitchell’s hus­band, Lyle, also works in industrial train­ing there.

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