Vermont Joins Search for Escaped Prisoners

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Escaped Prisoners
Law enforcement officers man a checkpoint outside Clinton Correctional Facility.Photo: Seth Wenig/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

Despite reports on Tuesday that the two murderers who broke out of a prison last weekend were "cornered" in Willsboro, New York, a town 40 miles south of Clinton Correctional Facility, there were no new sightings overnight and the men remain at large. Vermont authorities have joined the search effort, and Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Peter Shumlin are scheduled to hold a press conference in Dannemora on Wednesday afternoon

Law-enforcement officers are in Dannemora, where the Clinton Correctional Facility is located, to retrace steps and to see whether the convicts left any clues behind. The shift in the search, in its fifth day, is not thanks to any new information. Police officers will be searching homes in the tiny village and often empty seasonal homes nearby, and ask that residents call if they see anything strange. Most of all, officers want locals to be careful. "We don’t want them out searching the woods," the sheriff for Clinton County told the New York Times. "But if you’re sitting on your porch, get your binoculars out and see if you see something unusual."

Although no one has ever escaped from the maximum-security section of the prison, a century ago, inmates were more successful at absconding. One prisoner even managed to walk right out, according to the New York Times, although he was caught a year later. Prison escapes of this magnitude are rare statewide these days. From 2002 to 2012, the Los Angeles Times found, 29 inmates escaped from state prisons in New York. All were caught within three days — most within three hours.

And yes, Stephen King has noticed that everyone is making Shawshank Redemption comparisons. 

In Willsboro, residents are still wary and keeping houses locked, despite the fact that the police presence is largely gone. Everyone hopes Sweat and Matt get caught soon — and thinks that insanity caused by black flies may expedite the capture. Quentin Gillilland, son of the town supervisor in Willsboro, told The Wall Street Journal, “It’s beautiful, but it can be very unforgiving if you’re unprepared."

More than 50 digital billboards have been posted in New York and bordering states with pictures of the convicts. 

Experts say David Sweat and Richard Matt seem like the types who would have a getaway plan, but a new report suggests that they’re being forced to improvise.

Joyce Mitchell, who worked as an instructor in the prison’s tailor shop, has been questioned as a potential accomplice, and a source familiar with the investigation tells CNN that she planned to pick them up after their escape but changed her mind. 

The source also claims that her cell phone was used to call several people connected to Matt, though it’s unclear when the calls were made and who was using the phone. On Facebook, Mitchell once posted a photo concerning National Correctional Officers Week that read, “It takes balls to work behind the walls. No guns … just pure guts.” 

Her son, Tobey Mitchell, confirmed reports that she checked herself into the hospital on Saturday because “she was having severe chest pains.” He told NBC News that “the truth will come out” and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions about his mother’s role in the escape. “She is not the kind of person that’s going to risk her life or other people’s lives to let these guys escape from prison,” he said.

The Daily Beast spoke to Richard Matt’s former supervisor, who relayed that the inmate’s nickname was Hacksaw and that he loved drawing pictures of Oprah. They were “really, really good,” she said.

She added that inmates are usually “very respectful and know how to treat you like a woman wants to be treated.” The anonymous supervisor also had a theory for why no one heard Sweat and Matt using power tools. The Daily Beast reports that “noise from constant construction at the crumbling 150-year-old prison creates the perfect conditions for an escape.”

Pamela Sweat, the mother of one of the escaped prisoners, talked to the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin about her son. She wrote David letters twice a week, but deliveries from the prison stopped coming about two months ago. She no longer keeps pictures of him in her house. “I don’t want nothing to do with him,” she said. “He has tormented me since he was 9 years old, and now he’s 34 and I feel like he’s still doing it.”

The Plattsburgh Press-Republican reported on Wednesday that a fight involving 40 inmates broke out shortly before the escape. Corrections officers used tear gas. Usually such a fight would prompt a lockdown with lots of overtime and searching through the prison, but budget cuts have made additional expenses difficult. Two towers along the prison wall were not being monitored on Saturday, owing to staffing shortages. A source told the newspaper that inmates have been "going wild" after the escape.