$100,000 of­fered for cap­ture of N.Y. fugi­tives

Two in­mates, both con­victed of mur­der, es­cape from pri­son us­ing power tools.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Matt Pearce matt.pearce@la­times.com

Baf­fled New York state of­fi­cials an­nounced a $100,000 re­ward Sun­day for the cap­ture of two killers who used power tools to pull off an es­cape wor­thy of Hol­ly­wood from a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity pri­son near the Canadian bor­der.

That’s $50,000 for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to the ar­rest of each fugi­tive: Richard Matt, 48, who kid­napped a man, beat him to death and dis­mem­bered him in 1997, and David Sweat, 34, who killed a sher­iff ’s deputy in 2002.

Their es­cape from the Clin­ton Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity in Dannemora, about 20 miles south of the bor­der, was dis­cov­ered Satur­day. As of Sun­day, hun­dreds of in­ves­ti­ga­tors and search of­fi­cials had been mo­bi­lized to piece to­gether how the in­mates got the tools to es­cape, where they might be and where they are go­ing.

Gov. An­drew Cuomo said the pair could be “lit­er­ally any­where across the state” or in Canada and urged res­i­dents to be on the look­out.

“Th­ese are danger­ous in­di­vid­u­als. Th­ese are killers, they are mur­der­ers. There has never been a ques­tion about the crime they com­mit­ted, and they are now on the loose,” Cuomo said in a con­fer­ence call Sun­day.

Matt and Sweat are be­lieved to be the first in­mates to suc­cess­fully es­cape from the max­i­mum-se­cu­rity por­tion of the fa­cil­ity since the pri­son was built in the mid-1800s, ac­cord­ing to Cuomo.

The pair broke out with a brazen­ness evoca­tive of “The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion.” They placed dum­mies in their beds so guards would think they were sleep­ing while they used their tools to carve a path — lit­er­ally, at points — through the belly of the pri­son.

Cuomo said the men cut through a steel plate, crawled through to a high cat­walk, shim­mied down to a tun­nel be­low, broke through the wall of a brick well, cut into a 24-inch steam pipe, crawled in, wrig­gled for a while un­til they cut their way back out, and then re­moved a se­cured man­hole cover out­side the pri­son.

“It was a so­phis­ti­cated plan,” Cuomo said, adding the feat prob­a­bly took at least sev­eral days.

The men lived in sep­a­rate cells and cut holes in both, Cuomo spokesman Gareth Rhodes said.

On one of the sec­tions of pipe that had been cut open, in­ves­ti­ga­tors found a note with a crude car­i­ca­ture on it and the mes­sage, “Have a nice day!”

Although the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still in its early stages, all tools in the pri­son ap­pear to be ac­counted for, lead­ing of­fi­cials to won­der whether per­haps a con­trac­tor had lost or left be­hind some equip­ment, said An­thony J. An­nucci, act­ing com­mis­sioner for the state’s pri­son sys­tem.

“It’s spec­u­la­tion at this point,” An­nucci said on the con­fer­ence call, adding that he had asked the state’s pri­son of­fi­cials to take ex­tra pre­cau­tions since the es­cape.

Cuomo said of­fi­cials also were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether any con­trac­tors do­ing var­i­ous projects at the pri­son may have had con­nec­tions to ei­ther prisoner and helped them.

“This is the first es­cape, and we want to make sure it’s the last es­cape” from the Clin­ton fa­cil­ity, Cuomo said.

This was not Matt’s first time elud­ing law en­force­ment. He re­port­edly es­caped an Erie County jail in 1986 by climb­ing over a fence. Af­ter killing Wil­liam Rick­er­son in 1997, he fled to Mex­ico, where he killed an­other man in a fight out­side a bar, ac­cord­ing to the Buf­falo News.

Af­ter serv­ing time in a Mex­i­can pri­son, the news­pa­per re­ported, Matt was ex­tra­dited to New York. He was con­victed of sev­eral charges re­lated to Rick­er­son’s mur­der in 2008 and sen­tenced to 25 years to life.

Sweat pleaded guilty to mur­der­ing Broome County sher­iff ’s Deputy Kevin J. Tar­sia in 2002 and re­ceived a sen­tence of life with­out pa- role. The deputy had con­fronted Sweat and two other men af­ter a bur­glary across the bor­der in Penn­syl­va­nia, and Sweat and an­other sus­pect re­port­edly opened fire.

Tar­sia’s brother, Steven, said this week­end that find­ing out his brother’s killer had es­caped “turns your world up­side down all over again.”

Steven Tar­sia told the As­so­ci­ated Press that a cou­ple of days ago he couldn’t re­mem­ber the names of the men re­spon­si­ble for his brother’s death.

“All of a sud­den I re­mem­ber them again,” he said.

Dar­ren McGee New York Gover­nor ’s Off ice

NEW YORK Gov. An­drew Cuomo peers into a steel pipe that two in­mates cut through to es­cape from a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity pri­son near the Canadian bor­der.

New York State Po­lice

DAVID SWEAT, top, and Richard Matt could be “any­where across the state,” Cuomo said.

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