State News

23-day manhunt finally ends

Prison escapees found near the Canadian boarder

By Polly Lynn

Convicted murders David Sweat and Richard Matt had planned to drive to Mexico after successfully escaping from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., more than three weeks ago. However, they had to improvise after civilian prison employee Joyce Mitchell, accused of aiding them, failed to show up to give them a ride, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference Monday, June 29, citing statements reportedly made by Sweat to investigators.

“They would kill Mitchell’s husband, and then get in the car and drive to Mexico on the theory that Mitchell was in love with one or both of them,” Cuomo explained on “The Capitol Pressroom” radio program. “And then they would go live happily ever after, which is a fairy tale that I wasn’t read as a child. But we all believe what we want to believe.”

Mitchell has been accused of helping the escapees and she has admitted to smuggling hacksaw blades by hiding them in frozen hamburger meat, a law enforcement official said last week. The two inmates had received special privileges for good behavior, which allowed them to have hot plates and refrigerators in their cells.

Investigators say that according to Sweat, he and Matt were together until five days prior to his capture. Sweat had decided to go on his own because the older inmate was slowing him down, Cuomo said.


Matt and Sweat used power tools to carve their way out of the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6.

DNA evidence was found in Mountina View, N.Y., on June 22.

Richard Matt, 49, was shot and killed in Malone, N.Y., on June 26.

David Sweat, 35, was shot and captured in Constable, N.Y., on June 28. He is now hospitalized in serious condition in Albany, N.Y.

Since Matt was found and killed Friday and Sweat was captured Sunday, many area residents (including many Vermonters) are breathing easier, no longer having to fear encountering a desperate and dangerous escapee with little to lose.

Gov. Shumlin released a statement after Sunday’s news, stating “My heartfelt thanks goes out today to all the law enforcement officers who have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt are no longer on the loose and a threat to our region. Thanks to the commitment of Governor Cuomo and the New York State Police, and with the assistance of Vermont State Police and federal partners, these two men have been stopped. Governor Cuomo and I have been in regular communication throughout and I am grateful for his partnership as this search was conducted.

“Today’s capture ends a difficult time for many in the region, particularly New York residents living near the Dannemora prison and the search area. Families have been forced to stay in their homes and lock their doors, living each day on high alert until the two escapees were found. Their vigilance, combined with the dedication of law enforcement, has brought this ordeal to an end without any innocent lives being lost.”

Lessons to learn

Officials say that it is critically important to keep Sweat alive and that hospital personelle are doing everything in their power to save him. Sweet was last reported to be in critical condition. Authorities hope to learn from Sweet how he and Richard Matt escaped — and who helped them.

In addition to his current life sentence, Sweat will probably spend at least seven years in solitary confinement, according to Jeff Dumas, a retired sergeant at Clinton Correctional Facility. Lawyers and law enforcement will likely incentivize Sweet to talk to investigators by negotiating the possibility of a lesser term in solitary confinement.

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