New York jailbreak: Prison employee provided tools to escapees

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An employee at an upstate New York maximum-security prison “provided some form of equipment or tools” to a pair of convicted murderers who escaped, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said Friday.

“There is information as far as the contraband that (Joyce Mitchell) did provide to both (Richard) Matt and (David) Sweat,” said Wylie.

Hacksaw blades were among the items Mitchell gave to the convicts, two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN. She also gave Matt two pairs of eyeglasses with lights affixed to them as well as drill bits, one of the sources said. They were purchased over the past few months.

Matt and Sweat used power tools to cut through cell walls that included a steel plate and sever a 24-inch steam pipe — once to get in and once to get out — and surfaced through a manhole.

Mitchell knew the inmates from working with them tailoring clothes as an industrial training supervisor at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Investigators have been focusing on her ever since a 5:30 a.m. Saturday bed check, when it was discovered the convicts had escaped, and she has been “extremely cooperative,” according to Wylie.

She hasn’t spoken publicly. Her relatives have denied she was involved.

Authorities have a different take, however.

Still, his revelation Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day” adds to the information tying Mitchell to the escape.

State Department of Corrections officials had received a complaint about the relationship between her and one of the two escapees, according to a state official. While there was no evidence to support the complaint, according to Wylie, that does not mean there was no relationship.

“I don’t believe that the information was that there was absolutely no relationship,” the district attorney said.

Mitchell told investigators Matt made her feel “special,” though she didn’t mention being in love with him, a source familiar with the investigation said.

Her cell phone was used to call people connected to Matt, according to another source, though it’s not known who made these calls. And New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said authorities believe she planned to pick up the inmates after their escape only to change her mind at the last minute.

Mitchell hasn’t been arrested or charged. Wylie said she could at some point face felony counts including accessory to escape and promoting prison contraband.

Meanwhile, she has continued to work closely with investigators.

“She does not exercise her right to request an attorney, she voluntarily seeks us out,” Wylie told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday night. “(She) comes in and each day has been providing … additional information that’s assisted the investigators.”

Resident: ‘I haven’t left home in two days’

The information may have helped authorities figure out how the killers escaped, but so far it hasn’t helped locate them.

Between 2002 and 2013, state data show, almost every prison escapee in New York state was captured within 24 hours and none were out for more than three days. Until Matt and Sweat, who now have been on the lam for six days.

Their escape sent jitters across neighboring Vermont, where authorities believe they may have gone, and Canada, whose border is about 20 miles from the maximum-security prison.

Still, the most intense law enforcement activity has been in northeast New York, where investigators continue to search for clues by painstakingly checking wooded areas and roads and popping open trunks at checkpoints.

The ordeal has turned life upside down for those who call this rural, idyllic, out-of-the-way place home. Many people have restricted their movement, while classes in the Saranac Central School District — which includes Dannemora — were called off for a second straight day Friday “to assist law enforcement and to keep our buses off the routes … where they are searching,” Superintendent Jonathan Parks said.

“I haven’t left home in two days, I had to call in to work today because you wouldn’t be able to return back home,” resident Brooke Lepage said. “There were constant helicopters.

“Last night they had floodlights. There was a recorded (telephone) message telling us to stay in the house and make sure outside lights were on.”

Scent near a sandwich shop

Amid the mayhem, the search may be narrowing down — the latest focus being a sandwich shop not far from where the convicts escaped.

Investigators are looking at surveillance video from a gas station about a mile away from the prison.

Tracking dogs picked up the scent of both prisoners at the station and followed it east toward the town of Cadyville, Wylie said. The gas station has a Subway sandwich shop, and the two might have been rummaging for food in the trash bin, authorities said.

Authorities are reviewing the limited security video from the store.

A perimeter is up around the site of the scent, and the dogs were working their way in Thursday night.

Investigators found an imprint from a shoe or boot as well as food wrappers in the area, a source said. Possible bedding — an indent in the grass or leaves — has also been discovered, Wylie said.