Thursday Reads: Escape From Dannemora

breakout route

Good Morning!!

Those two murderers who escaped from a maximum security prison in Dannemora, NY six days ago are still on the loose. It’s like something out of a prison break movie, except that the escapees are not sympathetic characters. Some background, in case you haven’t been following the story:

AP, via The Wall Street Journal: Convicted Killers Escape From New York Top-Security Prison.

Two convicted murderers used power tools to cut through steel pipes at a maximum-security prison near the Canadian border and escape through a manhole, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

“It was an elaborate plot,” Gov. Cuomo said after joining law enforcement authorities to retrace the prisoners’ escape route from the Clinton Correctional Facility in the town of Dannemora in the Adirondacks….

Mr. 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. Mr. Matt is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the kidnapping and beating death of a man in 1997.

“A search revealed that there was a hole cut out of the back of the cell through which these inmates escaped,” Mr. Annucci said. “They went onto a catwalk which is about six 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.”

Authorities said there are many questions, including how the men acquired the tools.

cabbie12n-2-web

That question has now been tentatively answered. From The Buffalo News: Woman who worked at prison may have helped two killers escape.

ALBANY – A woman who worked at the state prison in Dannemora may have helped two convicted murderers escape over the weekend, state police said, and some media have reported that the woman also planned to pick up the escapees afterward but got cold feet.

“She befriended the inmates and may have had some sort of role in assisting them,” State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said at a Wednesday afternoon briefing outside the Clinton Correctional Facility.

D’Amico did not identify the woman, but confirmed media reports over the past several days have identified her as Joyce Mitchell.

The woman was supposed to pick up Richard W. Matt and David P. Sweat after they escaped, but changed her mind at the last minute, CNN and other media reported.

Mitchell’s son told NBC News Tuesday that his mother would not have helped the prisoners escape and that she has been in the hospital with chest pains since Saturday.

D’Amico declined to provide any details about possible assistance the woman provided, such as access to power tools and information about escape routes. Various media accounts have described Mitchell as helping to supply tools that the inmates used to break through walls and pipes, citing anonymous sources.

Read more details in this CNN article: Prison worker in spotlight after brazen New York escape.

Joyce MItchell

Joyce MItchell

Here’s another breathless backgrounder with lots of photos and a diagram (see the image at the top of this post) of the escape route: HOW THE PRISON BREAK WENT DOWN: EXCLUSIVE details on the escape route from New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility.

The great escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility was hatched in the prison tailor shop while the killers were sewing Metro-North uniforms, sources told the Daily News on Monday.

Using power tools that authorities suspect were either sweet-talked out of a female civilian worker or delivered by a contractor working at the prison, Richard Matt and David Sweat managed to pull off the first successful escape from the forbidding prison near the Canadian border.

Investigators are now grilling civilian employees and private contractors working at the prison to see whether any of them provided Matt and Sweat with tools, sources said.

One of them is Joyce Mitchell, 51, who works as an industrial training supervisor in the tailoring department.

Cops questioned Mitchell and her husband, who also works in the prison, on Saturday, according to neighbors.

“They were going through her trash,” said one neighbor, who would not give her name.

Investigators are checking whether Mitchell had a personal relationship with one of the men, sources said.

Now Reuters is reporting that Mitchell “thought she had a romantic relationship” with one of the escapees: Female prison worker, in love, agreed to drive getaway car: NBC News.

A female prison worker being questioned by police, who are hunting two escapees from an upstate New York prison, thought she had a romantic relationship with one of them and had planned to drive the getaway car, NBC News reported on Thursday.

In the end, Joyce Mitchell, an industrial training supervisor in the tailor shop of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, got cold feet and checked herself into a hospital for nerves on Saturday, the day the inmates were discovered missing, NBC reported, citing unnamed senior government officials.

The older inmate, convicted killer Richard Matt, 48, who has a history of escape attempts, had wooed Mitchell for months and established a relationship in which she agreed to drive the getaway car, the report said.

“She thought it was love,” one of the officials told NBC News.

Richard Matt

Richard Matt

Why do some women fall in love with criminals? Here’s some background on the two escaped killers from NBC News: Richard Matt and David Sweat, Convicted Murderers Who Escaped Prison, Have Grisly Past.

Matt, 48, was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2008 for killing [a] businessman. He had already escaped from prison once, in 1986, and at his trial a generation later he was considered so dangerous that police snipers were posted on the courthouse roof….

The victim was a food broker named William Rickerson who had hired and then fired Matt.

On Dec. 4, 1997, according to the trial testimony of an accomplice, Matt beat Rickerson with an electric knife sharpener, bound him with duct tape, tossed him in the trunk of a car, and then drove around for 27 hours looking for a place to kill and bury him.

At one stop on the drive, Matt opened the trunk, broke four of Rickerson’s fingers, hit him in the chest with a steering wheel locking device, then shut the trunk and kept driving.

The accomplice testified that Matt had him turn down a cul-de-sac, stop the car and open the trunk again. He said Matt told him: “You know, I’ve had enough of this.”

He said Matt reached in and twisted Rickerson’s head. “I heard a pop,” the accomplice testified, and the businessman “just dropped back in the trunk.” Matt cut off the arms and legs with a hacksaw, authorities said.

David Sweat

David Sweat

There’s more sickening detail at the link. All Sweat did was kill a cop.

Sweat, 34, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole in the shooting death of Kevin Tarsia, a sheriff’s deputy in Broome County, New York, on July 4, 2002.

Investigators said that he and two other men stole a pickup truck in Pennsylvania, broke into a fireworks and gun store and stole a dozen handguns and rifles.

They drove across the state line to New York to move the weapons from a pickup truck to a car. They shot Tarsia when he confronted them there.

Gawker had more on the escape on Sunday: Escaped Prisoners Left Behind a Politely Racist Note for Police.

The two murder convicts who escaped from upstate New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility overnight on Friday left a a very polite and very racist note telling police and everyone, “Have a nice day!”

The escaped inmates—Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34—had tricked guards using dummy bodies built out of sweatshirts while using mysteriously-acquired power tools to drill through walls and pipes, the New York Times reports. Anthony Annuci, the acting state corrections commissioner, told the Associated Press that the men’s absence was discovered during an early morning bed check on Saturday.

“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 on to a catwalk which is about six 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.” ….

At one point along their subterranean escape route, the prisoners left a racist note for anyone following them to find.

Racist note left on wall

Racist note left on wall

Animal New York published the note along with list of the various euphemisms media outlets have used to describe it.

This morning The New York Daily News reported that a “Philly cabbie says he may have driven escaped N.Y killers.”

A Philadelphia taxi driver says he might have picked up the convicted murders who made a brazen prison break from a maximum-security New York facility.

Police are questioning the cabbie, who claimed he shuttled two men who matched the escapees’ descriptions to the train station.

The unidentified driver picked up the men — who looked like 48-year-old Richard Matt and 34-year-old David Sweat — in the city’s center and drove them to 30th Street Station, NBC Philadelphia reported. The cabbie worked two more fares and then called police, he told investigators.

The latest news on the search for Sweat and Matt is that authorities suspect they may be headed for Vermont. I just hope they don’t pass by my house on their way!

From The Washington Post:

Authorities searching for two escaped killers who have been on the loose for the better part of a week acknowledged being in the dark about their whereabouts or doings, even as the hunt for the men expanded past state borders into Vermont.

At a news conference outside the maximum-security prison on Wednesday, New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said, “I have no information on where they are or what they’re doing, to be honest with you.”

But authorities expanded the search after investigators learned that the inmates had talked before last weekend’s breakout about going to neighboring Vermont.

“We have information that suggests they thought New York was going to be hot. Vermont would be cooler, in terms of law enforcement,” Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said at the news conference with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gee, no kidding.

The Christian Science Monitor reports: 

Vermont authorities are patrolling Lake Champlain and areas alongside it, Shumlin said. Cuomo urged the people of Vermont to be on the alert and report anything suspicious, warning: “Trust me, these men are nothing to be trifled with.”

As part of the search, state troopers and correction officers in helmets and body armor retraced their steps around the prison, checking garage doors, sheds, windows and other structures for signs of a break-in or other clues.

More than 450 federal and state law enforcement officers were taking part in the search, including customs agents, federal marshals and park rangers.

I wonder who else is helping these guys?

Law enforcement officials again asked the public to report anything out of the ordinary.

“We don’t want them out searching the woods,” Sheriff David Favro said. “But if you’re sitting on your porch, get your binoculars out and see if you see something unusual.”

Lots more human interest stuff at the link. People in Dannemora don’t seem all that concerned.

As of this morning, authorities have shut down a major highway near the prison. From WPTZ.com: Police converge on Cadyville in search for two fugitives. Route 374 closed from Dannemora to West Plattsburgh.

CADYVILLE, N.Y. —A massive search effort for two inmates who escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora intensified late Wednesday night and continued into Thursday.

Hundreds of police officers converged on the community of Cadyville, approximately one mile east of the village of Dannemora.

New York State Police closed State Route 374 east of the village of Dannemora to West Plattsburgh as they investigate what they called a “lead involving the escapees from the Clinton Correctional Facility.”

Cops are going over the whole area with a fine-toothed comb.

Hundreds of officers have scoured neighboring woods, looking “behind every tree, under every rock and inside every structure” for Matt and Sweat, New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said.

They’ve searched farms, fields and woods in Willsboro after a driver saw two “suspicious” men run off during a late-night driving rainstorm. Then there was a turn toward Vermont because of “information that would suggest (that state) was discussed as a possible location,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. Vermont state police vessels and troopers looked for the fugitives on Lake Champlain, which straddles the two states, as well as in nearby campsites.

That said, authorities don’t have any hard information that Matt and Sweat have left New York. Nor can they discount the possibility they have left the area, perhaps heading to Canada — which is just 20 miles north of the prison — or most anywhere in the United States or beyond. To this point, 50 digital billboards with the fugitives’ photos have gone up in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Let’s hope they catch these killers before anyone gets hurt. If they are headed to Vermont, maybe they will try to sneak into Canada, although that’s a lot more difficult now than it used to be.

To be honest, I haven’t been following this story closely until now because I assumed the Sweat and Matt would be caught fairly quickly; but after six days the story has become a lot more interesting. So I wrote a post about it to give me an excuse to get all the details.

This is an open thread. Feel free to discuss and post links on politics or anything else you want in the comment thread and have a great day.