Arrest made in prison escape
New York search for 2 killers continues as jail employee is charged. It’s not clear how she may have aided them.
NEW YORK — A prison employee was arrested and charged Friday in connection with the bold escape of two killers, who remained on the loose a week after using power tools to cut their way to freedom.
Joyce Mitchell, 51, of Dickinson Center, N.Y., was charged with promoting prison contraband in the first degree, a felony, and criminal facilitation in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor, law enforcement officials announced at a news conference in Saranac. The charges came after Mitchell reportedly told investigators that she had brought contraband into Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.
As Mitchell was being charged, hundreds of police were scouring the woods, lakes, residential backyards and campgrounds of northeastern New York in search of Richard Matt and David Sweat, who were discovered missing last Saturday morning.
“We have a message for David Sweat and Richard Matt: We’re coming for you,” Maj. Charles Guess of the New York State Police said.
Guess said the search continued to focus on the area around the prison be- cause there was no evidence either man had fled north to Canada or across the state line. While drenching rain and cool temperatures have made it difficult for searchers, Guess said the weather also could benefit them by wearing down Matt and Sweat.
“You’ve got to assume they’re cold, wet, tired and hungry,” he said. But he also warned that this could make the two men even more desperate.
The extent of Mitchell’s involvement with the men was not clear. Earlier, Clinton County Dist. Atty. Andrew Wylie said the prison had looked into reports in the last year that she had a close relationship with one of the men, but the investigation did not turn up enough evidence to block her from the facility or take other disciplinary action.
Mitchell, a civilian, works as a supervisor in the pris- on’s tailoring shop and has been employed there since 2010, according to local news reports. Her husband, Lyle, also works at the prison but has not been accused of involvement in the escape.
Since Matt and Sweat disappeared, police have received hundreds of tips, but Guess said there had been no confirmed sightings of the pair. A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to their arrest.
A Philadelphia cab driver reported he may have given the two men a ride, but police said his passengers were not the killers. Bloodhounds picked up a scent a couple of miles from the prison, suggesting the men had not gotten far. There have been reports of mysterious food wrappers, a footprint and signs of a makeshift campground in the woods.
Residents reported seeing mysterious men walking down a rain-drenched road and leaping over a backyard fence.
As for Mitchell, Wylie said that the “contraband” she smuggled into the prison could mean anything from toothpaste to saw blades. He would not elaborate, but he denied some news reports that Mitchell had brought power tools into the facility.
Matt, who kidnapped and killed a businessman in 1997, and Sweat, who killed a sheriff ’s deputy in 2002, have defied the odds in remaining free this long, according to prison-escape data compiled by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Of 29 inmates who escaped from New York state prisons from 2002 to 2012, none was loose for more than three days before being recaptured.