Search for Escaped Murderers to Be Expanded; Prison Worker’s Husband Visits Her in Jail: “No Way I’m Standing Behind Her”

The woman charged with helping two killers escape from an upstate New York prison by providing them with hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools was visited in jail Tuesday by her husband, also a prison worker, but not because he supported her, according to the husband's lawyer. 

Peter Dumas, the lawyer for Lyle Mitchell, knocked down earlier claims that he was standing by his wife Joyce Mitchell, 51, telling NBC News: "Nothing could be further from the truth."

Dumas said that his client told him, "There's no way I'm standing behind her." 

Dumas told NBC News that Lyle Mitchell simply wanted to ask his wife some lingering questions in light of reports that she may have plotted with David Sweat and Richard Matt, to kill Lyle. In an interview with NBC News Monday, District Attorney Andrew Wylie declined to comment on the possible plot.

Earlier, Favro described Joyce Mitchell as "composed" during the morning visit with her husband. Her attorney Stephen Johnson had said earlier her husband was still supportive of her and dismissed the alleged plot to harm Lyle Mitchell as false. 

After the visit, Mitchell was moved from Clinton County Jail, en route to Rensselaer County Jail. 

New York state police said Tuesday the search for the two killers will be expanded beyond where the manhunt has been most intense, even as rainy weather hampers their progress.

Police said hundreds of officers have searched 16 square miles of woods, fields and swamps during the 11 days since the inmates broke out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Troopers say evidence was found indicating the men "may have spent time there."

The search was concentrated in the area 4 miles from the prison town after search dogs caught the scent of both men in the woods. 

Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said Tuesday rain has been washing away any scent search dogs might find and interfering with thermal imaging devices being used to detect body heat. He also raised doubts that the escapees relied solely on a now-jailed prison worker to help them get away after their breakout.

Matt, 48, and Sweat, 35, escaped June 6 from the maximum-security prison near the Canadian border.

Sweat was serving a life sentence without parole for killing a sheriff's deputy. Matt was doing 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Sources have said that Mitchell was charmed by Matt, and had been investigated for a previous sexual incident with Sweat.

Prosecutors say Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who befriended the inmates, had agreed to be the getaway driver but backed out because she still loved her husband and felt guilty for participating.

Wylie said Monday that there was no evidence the men had a Plan B once Mitchell backed out, and no vehicles have been reported stolen in the area. That has led searchers to believe the men are still near the prison.

But Favro said Tuesday that while he has "no concrete information," he doesn't believe the escapees would have counted only on Mitchell for the ultimate success of their "elaborate, well-thought-out escape plan."

"My theory —my theory only — is that she was Plan B," he said. "I would have viewed her as baggage, almost, for them to be able to escape into freedom because she's leaving behind a family and a husband."

He said investigators won't be certain until the fugitives are caught.

But Favro said, "I find it difficult to believe right from Day One that they would go through that — probably took some time to really map together — and they would get out on the hopes that a civilian worker that they found would assist them in actually getting away,"

Mitchell was charged Friday with supplying contraband, including a punch and a screwdriver, to the two inmates. She has pleaded not guilty. She has been suspended without pay from her $57,000-a-year job overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines at the prison.

Authorities say the convicts used power tools to cut through the back of their adjacent cells, broke through a brick wall, then cut into a steam pipe and slithered through it, finally emerging outside the prison walls through a manhole. Wylie says they apparently used tools stored by prison contractors, taking care to return them to their toolboxes after each night's work.

Sources tell NBC News the men left taunting post-it notes throughout the escape route similar to the one they left on the pipe the sliced through to escape the prison.

In Broome County, where Sweat and his cousin killed a deputy in 2002, Sheriff David Harder said his office has been investigating since Sweat broke out of prison, contacting his family and associates and committing about 50 officers to the case. Sweat was "a kind of survivalist," who was caught in the woods in New York's Southern Tier five days after that killing after somebody came forward with information, he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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