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New York prison break: Worker talked murder-for-hire with escaped inmates

A prison worker charged with helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum-security facility in New York had discussed with them a murder-for-hire plot involving her husband, a district attorney says.

Police expand search for Richard Matt and David Sweat

More than 600 law enforcement officers are still searching the area near the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. Search teams are expanding the search area for two escapees beyond the 40-kilometre area around the facility. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

A prison worker charged with helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum-security facility in New York had discussed with them a murder-for-hire plot involving her husband, a district attorney says.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said at a news conference Wednesday that Joyce Mitchell talked to inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat about the possibility of them killing her husband, Lyle.

The Mitchells both work at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, in northern New York state.

Sweat and Matt escaped June 6 from the prison near the Canadian border. 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 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Joyce Mitchell is charged with helping the killers flee by providing them with hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She has pleaded not guilty.

N.Y. police released this new image of Richard Matt, 48. He is 5-10", 210 pounds, with black hair and hazel eyes. He has a tattoo on back reading 'Mexico Forever,' a heart on his chest and left shoulder, and a Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder. (New York State Police)
Police also released this new image of David Sweat, 34. He is 5-10” tall, 165 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes. He has tattoos on his left bicep and his right fingers. (New York State Police)
She was visited in jail Tuesday by her husband.

"She's rather composed given the gravity of what's going on," said Clinton County Sheriff David Favro, adding that Mitchell watches television and knows what's going on with the search.

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.

Police are still talking to Lyle Mitchell, but said he had no prior knowledge of the escape. 

Search expands

Also Wednesday, state police gave an update on their plans to expand the search for two escaped killers beyond a 40-square-kilometre area of woods, fields and swamps where the manhunt has been most intense, even as rainy weather hampered their progress.

Police shifted their search based on information they've gathered, adding that people in the region should expect to see law enforcement officers in their communities despite the fact that they have lifted a road block.

Police have received about 1,400 tips from the public since the men escaped. Capt. Robert Lafountain said officers are "relentless" and are following up on every lead. He said police will continue to search the area near the prison.

"We have no hard evidence that they are outside the area," said Lafountain. "That being said, I cannot rule that out."

No vehicles were reported stolen in the area. Search dogs had caught the scent of the men, and authorities found evidence indicating they may have spent time there.

Favro said rain has been washing away any scent dogs might find and interfering with thermal imaging devices being used to detect body heat.

Also Wednesday, police released new images of the men. They said neither should be approached because they are considered to be dangerous. Police urged the public to call 911 if the men are spotted.

Police continued to urge the public to contact them with any leads. 

'She was Plan B'

Joyce Mitchell heads into court for a hearing on Monday in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Mitchell is charged with helping convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from prison. (Rob Fountain/Press-Republican/Associated Press)
Wylie said Monday that there was no evidence the men had a Plan B once Mitchell backed out of the escape.

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

"My theory — my theory only — is that she was Plan B," he said Tuesday. "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.

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. 

With files from CBC News

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