Seamstress Smuggled Escape Tools in Raw Meat: Prosecutor

APTOPIX Escaped Prisoners
AP

Joyce Mitchell, the prison seamstress accused of helping two killers escape the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, upstate New York, smuggled tools into prison inside of ground beef, a local prosecutor told NBC News Tuesday.

Clinton District Attorney Andrew Wylie, whose office is prosecuting the escape plot of Richard Matt and David Sweat said Mitchell smuggled hack-saw blades, drill bits, and a hole punch into prison by stuffing the items in meat and bringing it to jail.

Matt and Sweat escaped the prison on June 6.  

Wylie said Mitchell would place the ground beef in a refrigerator in the tailor shop where she worked with the two prisoners.

According to Mitchell's statements, Gene Palmer, a corrections officer, would then take the meat to Matt, Wylie told NBC News.

Palmer was placed on administrative leave late Friday. ‎Wylie said Mitchell told investigators that she didn't think Palmer knew what was hidden inside the ground beef.

Meanwhile, police officials swarmed a campground in remote New York state Tuesday afternoon in what they called an "active and developing" situation near a cabin where searchers found evidence of two escaped murderers, NBC News reported.

It wasn't clear if the response was related to a possible breakthrough in the search for Matt and Sweat, but state police officials conveyed a sense of urgency as they surrounded the campground in Mountain View, roughly 30 miles west of the prison. 

Authorities began committing heavy resources to the remote woods days ago after leads from a hunting camp that was apparently broken into led to "good evidence, DNA data" regarding inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Multiple sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News a pair of underwear belonging to one of the escaped prisoners was found at a remote cabin in Owls Head, New York, over the weekend.

Roadblocks were in place Tuesday around the remote hamlets of Owls Head and Mountain View in an area of rugged terrain about 20 miles west of Clinton County Correctional Facility.

Searchers were checking ATV trails, logging roads and railroad beds and going door-to-door and conducting grid searches in the thick, mosquito-infested forests, said Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill. He said people were checking seasonal properties for signs of intruders.

Authorities hoped that an 18-day search punctuated by fruitless tips — officers spent part of the weekend scouring a rural area by the Pennsylvania line more than 300 miles away — might finally be close to the end.

"If they're here, we're going to find them," Mulverhill said. "I really believe it's going to come down to old-fashioned police work and the public."

Cuomo said, "I believe we will get these guys." But the governor also cautioned that they've had a number of leads and have to follow each as though it's the one that's going to bring authorities to the escapees.
Meanwhile, Mitchell's husband said in an interview aired Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show that he's "absolutely 100 percent" certain the escaped killers would have killed him and his wife if his wife had been their getaway driver, as initially planned.

Lyle Mitchell said his wife told him Sweat and Matt offered to give her pills to knock him out so she could pick them up after they escaped, but she refused because she said she still loved her husband.

"Do I still love her? Yes. Am I mad? Yes," Lyle Mitchell said in the interview aired Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show.

Joyce Mitchell remained in custody on charges she helped the two men escape by providing them hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She has pleaded not guilty.

Tuesday's search area was about 20 miles east of the Mitchells' home in Dickinson Center.

Authorities said Sweat and Matt cut through the steel wall at the back of their cell, crawled down a catwalk, broke through a brick wall, cut their way into and out of a steam pipe, and then sliced through the chain and lock on a manhole cover outside the prison.

Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole for killing a sheriff's deputy. Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnapping, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Mulverhill said there were no new sightings by midday Tuesday. He said a tight perimeter would be established if needed Tuesday night. Listening posts would be set up and aircraft would be sent on patrol.
 

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