Residents in rural NY on edge as search for 2 killers drags on; search to shift eastward
By John Kekis for The Associated PressNews Public Sector
Residents in rural New York, unaccustomed to locking their doors, day or night, were on edge as the manhunt for two killers who cut themselves free from a maximum-security prison with power tools stretched into a ninth day.
More than 800 law enforcement officers in the search for David Sweat and Richard Matt scoured the fields and Adirondack woods several miles around the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora near the Canadian border.
The search continues to focus on the area surrounding the prison after the jail worker accused of helping the men escape backed out of a plan that could have had the men hundreds of miles away, a prosecutor said.
The now-jailed prison worker had planned to pick the men up after they cut themselves out of the prison and drive about seven hours to an unknown destination, District Attorney Andrew Wylie told CNN.
But prison tailor shop instructor Joyce Mitchell backed out of the plan at the last minute, Wylie said.
“One of the reasons that she didn’t show up was because she did love her husband and didn’t want to do this to him,” Wylie said.
Searchers continued to focus on an area east of the prison, which is about 20 miles (30 kilometres) from the Canadian border.
Roads on the western edge of Plattsburgh were open only to local traffic and a state police helicopter was parked in a field where 24 hours earlier a contingent of 40 officers had marched into the adjacent woods on yet another grid search.
While many local residents remained locked in their homes at the advice of authorities, the outpouring of appreciation for the search effort continued. A restaurant was urging people to tie blue ribbons around trees and mailboxes.
“The locals have been awesome,” said Sgt. Barry Cartier of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, part of a crew from a neighbouring county working 12-hour shifts. “They come around with food all the time. We’ve got too much to eat.”
But residents were very much on edge, with some saying they were keeping firearms handy just in case. Both men are considered extremely dangerous.
Sweat was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff’s deputy. Matt was serving 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his 76-year-old former boss.
The men used power tools to cut through the back of their cells, shimmied down a six-story catwalk, broke through a brick wall then cut into a steam pipe they used to reach a manhole outside the prison walls.
Mitchell, 51, was arraigned Friday on a felony charge of promoting prison contraband and a misdemeanour count of criminal facilitation. She is accused of befriending the 34-year-old Sweat and 48-year-old Matt and smuggling in hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit to help the men escape. Her lawyer entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.
Mitchell’s daughter-in-law, Paige Mitchell, has said her mother-in-law never mentioned Sweat, Matt or any other inmates she encountered. “She doesn’t get too involved,” Paige Mitchell told the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh.
And Mitchell’s son Tobey told NBC that she would not have helped the inmates escape.
Associated Press video journalist Joseph B. Frederick in Cadyville, New York, contributed to this report.
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