CBS News—Did N.Y. Prison Worker Help Two Murderers Escape?

There is new evidence that a prison escape in northern New York may have been an inside job and sources tell CBS News that police are questioning a prison employee named Joyce Mitchell, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.

The New York Daily News reports that Mitchell, a supervisor in the prison tailor shop where the two men worked, may have helped the two murderers escape.

David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, were reportedly held in an “honor block,” allowing them to spend more time out of their cells and in a shop where they had access to tools.

Split image of David Sweat and Richard Matt        NYSPNEWS.COM

The Daily News says one of the inmates used a guitar case to carry the power tools they used to cut their way out.

Police continued searching for any signs of Sweat and Matt, but for a third day the searches turned up nothing. Checkpoints in and out of Dannemora continue to be manned by armed officers and schools have added security.

“I think people are concerned for their safety. Absolutely. I mean, you’d be foolish not to be,” Dannemora Resident Ann Fraser said.

Authorities say the convicted killers used power tools to cut their way through the wall of their adjoining cells, break through a brick wall and climb out onto a six-story high catwalk.

They then cut a hole into a 24-inch wide steam pipe, shimmied through a maze of tunnels before cutting a lock and chain on a manhole cover three blocks from their prison wing to complete their escape.

One of the few things they left behind was a taunting note.

Contractors have been working at the 150-year-old prison and investigators believe that may be how the two men acquired the power tools.

The fugitives have been described as extremely dangerous. Matt kidnapped, killed, and dismembered his boss in 1997. Sweat, 34, was a burglary suspect in 2002 when he and his accomplices shot deputy sheriff Kevin Tarsia 15 times and ran him over.

“They were never supposed to see the light of day. My feeling is just disgusted. I can’t it believe it. They’re out,” Tarsia’s brother Steven said.

John Jay College Professor of Criminology Dr. Jeffrey Butts worries the two fugitives have nothing to lose.

“They will engage in a fight to the death to avoid going back to prison. They would probably do whatever it takes to avoid that fate,” he said.

Law enforcement officials tell CBS News the fugitives were always seen together while in prison; they even ate their meals together. Investigators are interviewing civilian prison employees, contract workers and acquaintances, as well as sifting through the prison’s phone and visitor records looking for any leads.

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