PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Authorities said a woman who provided hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools to two convicted murderers who escaped from a maximum-security prison discussed having them kill her husband.
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie at a news conference Wednesday said that Joyce Mitchell had talked to inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat about killing her husband, Lyle, who also works at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, near the Canadian border. Wylie told ABC News that Mitchell said to investigators that she was having sex with Matt.
Sweat and Matt escaped from 170-year-old prison in far northern New York on June 6 and have yet to be apprehended as a 13th day of searching started Thursday. Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who befriended the inmates, was arrested June 12.
Lyle Mitchell voluntarily gave a statement to authorities during a three-hour session at the state police barracks in Malone on Wednesday, the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh reported.
His lawyer, Peter Dumas, said Lyle Mitchell will not be charged in connection with the escape, the newspaper reported.
Dumas told NBC’s “Today” show Thursday that his client was “blown away” by revelations that Joyce Mitchell talked to the inmates about having them kill her husband after they broke out.
“He in shock, still,” Dumas said. “This is a woman who he felt was his best friend for 21 years, and now he finds out that she was possibly part of a plot to kill him.”
Investigators have no information that Lyle Mitchell knew about the escape plan or assisted in it, Wylie said.
Meanwhile, state police expanded the search for the killers beyond a 16-square-mile area of woods, fields and swamps where the manhunt has been most intense. Police were checking the hundreds, if not thousands, of seasonal homes and hunting camps in the region and stepped up roving patrols.
Officials said the number of law enforcement officers involved in the search had been reduced from more than 800 earlier in the week to more than 600 Wednesday.
State police said Wednesday that they have “no hard evidence” that Sweat and Matt were able to leave the area. But they cautioned that the lack of evidence doesn’t mean the escapees are somewhere near the prison.
Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole in the killing of a sheriff’s deputy. Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.
Prosecutors say Joyce Mitchell had agreed to be the getaway driver but backed out because she still loved her husband and felt guilty for participating.
She was charged last week with supplying contraband, including a punch and a screwdriver, to the two inmates. She has pleaded not guilty and has been suspended without pay from her $57,000-a-year job overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines.
Authorities say the convicts used power tools to cut through the backs of their adjacent cells, broke through a brick wall and 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.
Associated Press writer Michael Virtanen in Albany contributed to this report.
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