Woman Charged With Helping Murders Escape New York Prison [Update]

Photo: Mike Groll/AP Photo.
Update: Joyce Mitchell, the prison seamstress who'd been accused of providing the prisoners with power tools for their escape, has been arrested.

Mitchell worked in the prison's tailor shop, where both the fugitives also worked before their escape. Mitchell said that one prisoner, Richard Matt, made her feel "special," though the extent of their relationship is unknown. Charged with promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation, Mitchell will be arraigned this evening.

This story was originally published on June 10, 2015.

Escaped murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat are still on the run, despite a massive, days-long manhunt in Upstate New York.

There have been several reported sightings. On Tuesday, four full days after the breakout, dozens of police and FBI agents with dogs and helicopters descended on the small town of Willsboro, New York. A local reported two suspicious men walking down the road in a pouring rainstorm. The men, the caller said, fled into the woods. After hours combing the forest, the search came up empty-handed.

Willsboro, a tiny town of 2,000, is about 35 miles from the prison in Dannemora, NY, where the inmates had been held, and only 25 miles from the Canadian border. The search for the men and an investigation into how they got out in the first place continue Wednesday.

Movies and TV shows to the contrary, prison breaks are extremely rare: The most recent reported statistic for U.S. prisoners who have managed to escape was less than one-half of one percent — and most escapees are generally caught.

Police are still questioning Joyce Mitchell, a 51-year-old industrial training supervisor who worked in the prison tailor shop with the two men. There have been accusations that she may have helped the men acquire the power tools they used to break out, though she has not been formally charged.

On Saturday, June 6, the two cellmates were found missing. They'd hacked through a wall, crossed a catwalk, made it down six stories and into a system of pipes, emerging from a manhole outside the prison. Before running free, the duo left a parting message: "Have a nice day," a yellow sticky note read, along with a caricature that distastefully depicted an Asian person.

David Sweat was in prison for the murder of a police officer in 2002, while Richard Matt's convicted of three counts of murder after beating a man to death in 1997.
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Photo: Mike Groll/AP Photo.
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