Hunt for escaped inmates now centered hundreds of miles from prison

Jun 21, 2015 2:39 PM by News Staff

FRIENDSHIP, N.Y. - The search for two convicted killers in New York shifted after possible sightings in the southern part of the state, 350 miles from the prison where the men escaped two weeks ago.

New York State Police spokesman Beau Duffy said officers were investigating a possible sighting of the prisoners in Allegany County near the Pennsylvania border.

A person spotted two men Saturday near a railroad line that runs along Route 20 in the town of Friendship, state police said, and police concentrated the search in the area along the route and Interstate 86.

David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped June 6 from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, near the Canadian border. The two broke out of the maximum-security prison using power tools and leaving behind dummies under bedcovers in their adjoining cells.

A door-to-door search involving up to 800 law enforcement officers has been underway since then, concentrated in a several-mile radius of woods and fields around the prison in the Adirondacks.

State police moved the search command post from the prison Saturday to nearby Cadyville and focused attention on the other side of the state. They advised the public to report any suspicious activity and asked residents who live in the Friendship area along the New York-Pennsylvania border to be on alert.

The two men are "very dangerous" and should not be approached, state police said.

Several roads around Friendship were blocked off and police used helicopters and search dogs in the hunt. Police continued to search vehicles on Interstate-86 Sunday morning, according to CBS affiliate WIVB.

Resident Darryl Ross told The Leader newspaper he was securing his property.

"I was a little concerned. You have these guys running around. You don't know where they are," Ross said. "I have a house with a big cellar and a big garage. I cleared the house. I had firearm protection."

Authorities said Friday that two men fitting the description of Sweat and Matt had been seen a week ago in Steuben County, east of Allegany County. Two men were seen walking near a rail yard in Erwin on June 13, and then seen the next day in Lindley, New York, heading toward the Pennsylvania border.

Investigators conducted interviews in both communities and sent surveillance video to Albany for further analysis.

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 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

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

Officials said a corrections officer also has been placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation into the men's escape. The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said no additional information was available.

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