The manhunt for two dangerous murderers who made a daring escape from an upstate New York prison was focusing Tuesday on a small town some 30 miles south, where two suspicious men were reportedly spotted.
Corrections officers, New York State Police troopers and Essex County Sheriff’s Office deputies were focusing on farms and fields around Willsboro, a town of about 2,000 people on the shore of Lake Champlain, in the search for Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, who disappeared from the Clinton Correctional Facility sometime before Saturday morning. One of the men reportedly has family in the area, and residents reported seeing a couple of men walking on a road late Monday in Willsboro during a driving rainstorm.
“[We’re] chasing down a lead,” a law enforcement source told Fox News.
Authorities declined to confirm earlier reports that Joyce Mitchell, an industrial training supervisor at the Clinton Correctional Facility, was being questioned by authorities about the escape. The Press Republican reported, citing an unnamed source, that she worked inside a tailor shop inside the prison and may have helped the men get power tools needed to cut their way out of the lockup.
“They are dangerous and we want to make sure that they don’t inflict any more pain and any more harm.”
– New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Authorities said there are many questions surrounding the escape, including how the men acquired power tools used to break out of the facility. Prison authorities are checking to see if any power tools are missing from contractors at the prison. Police also said they believe the convicts stashed the tools they used to escape in a guitar case, according to the New York Post.
“It’s very important that we locate these individuals,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “They are dangerous and we want to make sure that they don’t inflict any more pain and any more harm.”
Mack’s half-brother, Wayne Schimpf, told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that Mack was “a very dangerous man” who “has nothing to lose at this point.”
He also said on “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” that after he testified against his half-brother, Mack had threatened to kill him and “I’m very worried he’s coming this way.”
Shaun Gillilland, the town supervisor of Willsboro, told the Wall Street Journal a report was called in by a citizen of “two suspicious men walking down a very rural road in the southern part of our town in the middle of a driving rain storm.”
“When the car this person was in approached, they took off into the fields,” Gillilland told the newspaper.
Mark Fuhrman, a former Los Angeles Police Department detective and Fox News contributor, said there is no doubt the two had help — both during and after the escape — and said he suspects the men are far from the area.
“They could be a thousand miles away or a mile away, but laying low close by only complicates your problem,” Fuhrman said. “If anyone is going to recognize their photos, it’s someone in the immediate area.”
No report of a carjacked or stolen vehicle in the area indicates the men had help outside the prison, according to Fuhrman.
“Escaping this type of a correctional facility and getting to the point of exit is only half the problem,” he said. “You need logistical help to get from that point to a place where you’re not going to be picked up.”
“That’s the first thing police look at when you have someone afoot,” Fuhrman said of stolen vehicles. “If you don’t have that, they had help.”
Sweat is serving a sentence of life without parole after he was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a Broome County sheriff’s deputy in 2002.
Sweat and another man fired 15 rounds into Deputy Kevin Tarsia on the Fourth of July in 2002 shortly after using a pickup truck to break into a Pennsylvania woman’s house, stealing rifles and handguns, authorities have said.
Matt is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the kidnapping, beating death and dismemberment of his former boss, William Rickerson, in 1997.
Following Rickerson’s murder, Matt escaped from a minimum-security prison while awaiting trial and fled to Mexico, where he was eventually arrested after fatally stabbing another American outside a bar in a robbery attempt. He was jailed in Mexico for the killing, and later extradited to the U.S. in 2008 to face trial in the Rickerson murder.
The Daily Beast reported that Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who worked as a stripper, testified during the 2008 trial that Matt confessed to breaking Rickerson’s neck. Wayne Schimpf, Matt’s half-brother, remembered when Matt showed him an article about the businessman’s body being found hacked up in a river.
Schimpf recalled during testimony asking Matt how he managed to cut up the body.
“He turned and looked at me, and with a grin that I won’t forget, he said, ‘With a hacksaw.’ This whole time I’m still thinking he’s full of crap, he’s just trying to sound big. You know, I really didn’t want to believe it.”
Matt landed at Clinton Correctional in 2008 after being convicted in the Rickerson murder.
At the prison, Matt’s and Sweat’s adjoining cells were empty during a Saturday morning check, said Anthony Annuci, the acting state corrections commissioner.
“A search revealed that there was a hole cut out of the back of the cell through which these inmates escaped,” Annucci said. “They went onto a catwalk which is about 6 stories high. We estimate they climbed down and had power tools and were able to get out to this facility through tunnels, cutting away at several spots.”
State police said more than 200 officers from multiple agencies were searching for the inmates. The search included bloodhounds and aerial surveillance.
Cuomo said the prison break was the first escape from the maximum-security portion of the prison since it was built in 1865.
The prison is about 20 miles from the Canadian border. Roadblocks were set up in the area, WIRY-AM reported.
Sweat is white, 5 feet 11 inches, with brown hair and green eyes and weighs 165 pounds, police said. He has tattoos on his left bicep and his right fingers.
Matt is white, 6 feet tall, with black hair and hazel eyes, according to police. He weighs 210 pounds and has tattoos including “Mexico Forever” on his back, a heart on his chest and left shoulder and a Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder.
Source: Fox News