NY rural residents on edge as search for 2 killers continues

David Sweat (left) and Richard Matt (right) (Photos: New York State Police via AP)


PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Residents in rural New York, unaccustomed to locking their doors, day or night, were on edge Saturday as the massive manhunt for two killers stretched out over an eighth day and the two men remained undetected after cutting themselves out of a maximum-security prison with power tools.

More than 800 law enforcement officers in the hunt 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 resumed the morning after a prison worker was charged with smuggling in hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit to help the men escape. Joyce Mitchell appeared in handcuffs before a judge in Plattsburgh on Friday night; her lawyer entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

On Saturday, John St. Germain, who lives in the small town of Cadyville, was scanning the skyline and the Saranac River with a pair of binoculars.

“I’m kinda just looking at things along the river,” he said. “The river is real high right now. And if I see something, I know what to do.”

Kevin Farrington, a city engineer in Plattsburgh, stood close watch over his 2-year-old son Dylan as the toddler jumped at the chance to go outside for the first time since the prison break. A contingent of about 40 armed officers scanning the field across the highway set the family at ease for the first time all week.

“Obviously, you know the prison is there, but there’s never been an incident so you feel secure,” said Farrington, who moved to the banks of the Saranac River 13 years ago.

“When something like this happens, you think about a couple of guys who are pretty bad actors capable of anything,” Farrington said. “You know they’re desperate and probably not going to want to be taken alive. They’ll probably go to any lengths.”

Farrington said he keeps a loaded gun inside his home, just in case.

The 51-year-old Mitchell, a tailor shop instructor at the prison, was arraigned Friday on a felony charge of promoting prison contraband and a misdemeanor count of criminal facilitation.

Mitchell was ordered held in jail on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond. She was moved to a jail in another county Saturday morning at the request of the Clinton County sheriff and is due back in court Monday morning.

Mitchell is accused of befriending the 34-year-old Sweat and 48-year-old Matt and giving them the contraband, according to criminal complaints. District Attorney Andrew Wylie said earlier the contraband didn’t include the power tools the men used to cut holes in their cell walls and a steam pipe to escape through a manhole last weekend.

A person close to the investigation says Mitchell had agreed to be the getaway driver but never showed up. The person was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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.

Mitchell has a job with a yearly salary of $57,697, overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines at the prison. She has been suspended without pay. Her husband, Lyle, also works in industrial training at the prison.

“She’s a good, good person,” a neighbor, Sharon Currier, said. “She’s not somebody who’s off the wall.”

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 and that she checked herself into a hospital with chest pains on June 6, the day the breakout was discovered.
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Associated Press videographer Joseph Frederick in Cadyville, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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