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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Searchers comb woods for prisoners

Published 24/06/2015 | 13:16

Officers walk through woods while searching for two prison escapees from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. (AP)
Officers walk through woods while searching for two prison escapees from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. (AP)

Hundreds of searchers in northern New York are closing in on two murderers who escaped from a maximum-security prison more than two weeks ago.

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A prison employee now in custody has told investigators she smuggled hacksaw blades, a screwdriver and other tools into the prison by placing them in frozen hamburger meat, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wiley said.

Authorities say David Sweat and Richard Matt cut through the steel wall at the back of their cell, cut their way into and out of a steam pipe and escaped through a manhole cover outside the prison on June 6.

The hunt for them intensified this week after a hunting camp that was apparently broken into led to "good evidence, DNA data," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Roadblocks were in place around the remote hamlets of Owls Head and Mountain View in rugged terrain about 20 miles west of Clinton County Correctional Facility.

Investigators conducted grid searches in the thick, mosquito-infested forests and checked railroad beds, said Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill.

He said people were going to seasonal properties, which can be abandoned for months at a time, looking for signs of intruders.

"If they're here, we're going to find them," Mr Mulverhill said.

As the summer holiday season picks up, more people are expected in the camps and cabins spread across the region.

The husband of the woman accused of helping the inmates escape said in an interview that he's "absolutely 100%" certain the pair would have killed him and his wife if his wife had been their getaway driver, as initially planned.

Lyle Mitchell said his wife, Joyce Mitchell, told him Sweat and Matt offered to give her pills to knock him out so she could pick them up after they escaped, but she refused because she said she still loved her husband.

"Do I still love her? Yes. Am I mad? Yes," Lyle Mitchell said.

Joyce Mitchell remained in custody on charges she helped the two men escape. She has pleaded not guilty.

Mr Wiley said Mitchell put the meat with tools inside into a refrigerator in the prison tailor shop where she worked.

A corrections officer brought the meat to Sweat and Matt, who were housed in a section of the prison where inmates are allowed to cook their own meals.

The DA said the guard didn't know the tools were inside the meat. The guard been placed on paid leave.

Several corrections officers from different prisons in the area own the hunting cabin were the DNA evidence was found over the weekend.

Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole for killing a sheriff's deputy. Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnapping, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

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