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Second Arrest Made In New York Prison Escape

Inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6. On Wednesday, police arrested prison guard Gene Palmer, who allegedly smuggled tools to the men.

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Updated on

What We Know So Far

  • David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility June 6 in Dannemora in an elaborate escape, prompting a massive manhunt.
  • DNA from the convicts was reportedly found in a cabin in the Saranac Lake area, about 40 miles from the prison.
  • The pair used power tools to saw a hole in their quarter-inch steel cell walls, gaining access to a catwalk. They then broke through a thick brick wall and sawed through a 2-foot-wide steam pipe, shimmying through it until they emerged from a manhole on the street.
  • One prison employee, Joyce Mitchell, was arrested in connection with the escape. She pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding the prisoners. Prosecutors say she has admitted to using frozen meat to smuggle tools to the prisoners.
  • Prison guard Gene Palmer was arrested Wednesday for his alleged role in the escape.

Updates

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A New York prison guard accused of smuggling tools to the two inmates who escaped was arrested Wednesday.

New York State Police arrested Gene Palmer for his role in the June 6 escape of convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt.

Palmer was later charged with one count of promoting prison contraband, two counts of tampering with physical evidence, and one count of official misconduct, according to police.

Gene Palmer, 3 felonies and 1 misdemeanor. Held with bail at $25,000 #prisonbreakny

Palmer's attorney, Andrew Brockway, did not return BuzzFeed News' calls Wednesday, but told CNN his client is was willing to cooperate with authorities. Brockway did not know what kind of penalties Palmer might face for his charges, but added that his client hoped that cooperating would allow him to move on with his life.

Palmer's bail has been set at $25,000.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told BuzzFeed News Tuesday that Palmer had taken frozen hamburger meat to the two inmates. The meat allegedly contained tools the men used break out of prison, though Wylie had said Palmer did not appear to have known what he was bringing into the prison.

Wylie did not immediately responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

However, Wylie told CNN that Palmer also allegedly gave Matt and Sweat access to a prison catwalk, as well as an area behind their cells where circuit breakers were located. Wylie explained that many inmates at the prison have hot plates, and Matt and Sweat were allowed to fix their breakers in order to prepare food in their cells.

When asked why Palmer brought meat into the prison without putting it through an X-ray machine, Wylie said some of the guards "develop these friendships with these inmates."

He added that guards also sometimes rely on inmates for information, "like using a confidential informant."

Palmer was to be arraigned Wednesday night in Plattsburgh Town Court, according to the police statement.

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The woman accused of helping David Sweat and Richard Matt escape from a New York prison on June 6 allegedly told police she smuggled the tools using hamburger meat.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told BuzzFeed News Tuesday that Joyce Mitchell said she used frozen chunks of meat to conceal the contraband, including saw blades. She then passed the meat on to a prison guard.

"She walked in with the hamburger meat and placed it in a refrigerator, in an area within the tailor shop," Wylie said, adding that the guard then delivered the meat to Matt.

Wylie identified the guard as Gene Palmer, who has been placed on leave. However, Wylie said authorities don't believe he knew that the tools were in the frozen meat.

Mitchell has pleaded not guilty to charges related to allegedly aiding Matt and Sweat with their elaborate escape.

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Lyle, who also works at the Clinton Correctional Facility, said nothing seemed unusual about his wife's expression or demeanor when they found out David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped from prison. It wasn't until much later at the police station that she admitted to providing the men with tools to saw through their cells.

"I asked her what was going on. She said, 'I just – I did some things … and I got over my head.' I didn't know what to say. I was just ... disbelief, shock," Lyle told Lauer.

Lyle also said that Matt gave his wife pills that would knock him out so that she could flee with the two men. Joyce backed out of her plan to be the getaway driver and was hospitalized for anxiety the night of the escape.

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Authorities would not confirm in a press conference that DNA evidence from the escapees was found in a cabin, saying they did not want to compromise their investigation.

Search for escaped NY convicts: - Sightings remain unconfirmed - Search continues in Owls Head, Franklin County

They said they are focusing their search in the city of Owls Head in Franklin County, NY.

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New York State Police announced they would hold a news conference Monday regarding the escaped prisoners.

#PrisonBreakNY U/D: New York State Police to hold media briefing Monday at noon on search for escapees

The update came as local reporters said the search had refocused on a cabin in Franklin County, in the Saranac Lake region. CBS News reported that DNA from the convicts was found inside.

Press-Republican reporters on the scene say police are focusing on a hunting camp on Black Cat Mountain. #PrisonBreakNY

Camp owner tells locals that he saw water jug and jar of peanut butter on table of camp before a man ran out. #PrisonBreakNY

Search efforts in Allegheny County — based on what officials called a "credible" tip — were considered over by Sunday night.

Law enforcement gathering at Owls Head Fire Department. I'm hearing a lot of the officers are soaked to the bone already #PrisonBreakNY

The Vt. State Police Tactical Support Unit is en route to New York to assist in the on-going manhunt. They were requested by NY authorities.

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A sighting of two men spotted walking along a railroad line in Friendship has sparked a large police presence in the town as authorities search for the two escaped convicts, law enforcement officials confirmed.

The men, spotted by a witness Saturday afternoon, appeared to fit the description of David Sweat and Richard Matt, according to a statement released by the New York State Police.

The railroad line runs along Route 20 in the town.

Officials said the sighting was "unconfirmed," but nevertheless asked residents to be on alert.

Residents and businesses owners in Friendship told BuzzFeed News there were at least three helicopters in the air since 2 p.m., and police told local business owners to lock up and go home.

The town of Friendship contains about 2,000 residents and is located more than 350 miles southwest of the Clinton Correction Facility where the two men escaped.

According to the New York State Police, the current search is focused along I-86 and Route 20. Canine units have been sent to the area to help in the manhunt.

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There is an "intensive" search underway in Friendship, New York, after a possible sighting of the escaped prisoners, officials told BuzzFeed News on Saturday.

Friendship, NY official tells @BuzzFeedNews "intensive" search underway amid reports two #PrisonBreakNY suspects spotted in the town

The state police are investigating the possible sighting in the small town in Allegany County, some 300 miles from the prison in Dannemora, a spokesman told the AP.

A person who answered the phone at the Allegany County Sheriff's office told BuzzFeed News, "it's really crazy over here right now."

A police dispatcher in neighboring Angelica County said the search has been ongoing for hours and his police force hasn't "been deployed yet."

"There's a large group of law enforcement involved, but they're not bringing in local municipalities that I'm aware," the dispatcher said. "They have a structured search going, not confirmed yet that these are the guys."

Friendship resident Robert Hall told BuzzFeed NEws his wife was stopped by police on her way home and was told "she could go there, but no farther." The officer said there was a reported sighting of the convicts.

"I was cutting my grass and they told me to get in the house and lock the doors," said Hall. "They're stopping everyone in traffic stops."

"It's pretty intense out here," he added. "I'm fine. I have plenty of protection, they come in this house they may not make it out."

An NBC News reporter said State Police said they don't have the suspects surrounded at this time.

Jim Dieter, who manages the restaurant Miller & Brandes outside Friendship, told BuzzFeed News that police told merchants were told to shut down.

Restaurant manager tells @BuzzFeedNews cops went into Friendship NY businesses, told them to “shut down and go home.” #PrisonBreakNY

Friendship near 1-86 bridge #PrisonBreakNY

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The two men, who allegedly matched the descriptions of convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt, were reportedly spotted in Steuben County, New York, 300 miles southwest of Dannemora's Clinton Correctional Facility, from where they escaped two weeks ago using power tools.

According to locals, the men were seen near a rail yard in Erwin, and in Lindsey, New York, the following day, possibly heading to the Pennsylvania border.The sightings were reported on June 13, the Associated Press reported.

It is not yet clear why authorities waited a week to divulge the latest development.

Police investigators have conducted interviews in both communities, as well as collected video surveillance footage which has reportedly been deemed inconclusive and sent to Albany for further analysis.

Hundreds of state and local police officers are involved in the search for the two men, and, although the convicts have managed to elude law enforcement officials so far, state police said on Friday they are in it for the "long haul."

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A New York state corrections officer at the prison where two convicts escaped on June 6 has been placed on leave.

Officials announced the suspension Friday, but did not identify the officer or provide additional details, the Associated Press reported.

The suspension came nearly two weeks after convicted killers David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.

Citing an unnamed source, The New York Times reported that investigators are focusing on as many as four officers from the prison. Some of those officers had reportedly switched their posts in the months leading up to the escape, while others were seen near the part of the prison where the escapees had been housed.

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The U.S. Marshals added escaped convicts David Sweat and Richard Matt to its most-wanted list Thursday.

The list includes 15 of the "worst of the worst," according to a statement from the U.S. Marshall's Office. The agency also is offering a $25,000 reward per escapee for information to leading to their capture.

The two men escaped from Clinton Correction Facility on June 6. Authorities have mounted a massive manhunt, but have so far failed to local the men.

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State police are expanding their search area as they hunt for two escaped prisoners after days of focusing their efforts along a state road have come up empty.

Local, state and federal officials have scoured 16 square miles surrounding Dannemora after Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility June 6.

The search has focused in the community near the prison since the elaborate escape, including roadblocks and search teams in the air and with search dogs.

Officials intensified their search in the area after a dog picked up the scent of both men near Route 374, prompting authorities to shut down the road. On Tuesday, New York State Police said they would begin to expand their search "based upon information gathered during the investigation."

The expansion also included scaling back on manpower that has focused in the 16-mile area since the escape.

"This area h as been extensively searched, and evidence recovered suggests that the escaped inmates may have spent time there," according to a statement released by the New York State Police.

Route 374 will also reopen Tuesday, state officials said.

State troopers, forest rangers, police, FBI agents and U.S. Marshals will continue to be in the Dannemora area, but personnel there will be scaled back, officials said.

Roadblocks will be shifted to other sectors, the statement read, but authorities did not specify where.

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Appearing in court wearing a jail jumpsuit and bulletproof vest, New York prison worker Joyce Mitchell on Monday waived her right to a preliminary hearing after prosecutors said she provided tools and offered other help to two escaped inmates.

Mitchell's case will now move forward in county court, the Associated Press reported.

A prosecutor previously said Mitchell changed her mind about being the getaway driver because she felt guilty and still loved her husband. CNN on Monday reported that part of Richard Matt and David Sweat's escape plan may have also involved killing Mitchell's husband.

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District Attorney Andrew Wylie told NBC News that Joyce Mitchell had agreed to be the escapees' getaway driver — driving the two men for up to seven hours — but changed her mind because she still loved her husband. Wylie said Mitchell did not know where the two men were ultimately headed.

"Basically, when it was go-time and it was the actual day of the event, I do think she got cold feet and realized, 'What am I doing?'" Wylie told the Associated Press. "Reality struck. She realized that, really, the grass wasn't greener on the other side."

Mitchell was previously investigated for a prior sexual incident with David Sweat, NBC News reported, citing a source familiar with the investigation.

According to the source, Richard Matt also got close to Mitchell, gaining her affection to the point where she "thought it was love."

Wylie said Mitchell was previously investigated for having a relationship with Sweat but there was insufficient information to remove her from her job.

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More than 800 law enforcement officers have joined the search for David Sweat and Richard Matt, which on Sunday stretched into its ninth day.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was unclear if the two convicted murderers were still in the area, the Associated Press reported. Searchers on Sunday expanded east the original search area in rural, upstate New York.

But a prosecutor said authorities still believe the men are near the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, the AP reported. Prosecutors have said prison worker Joyce Mitchell helped the men in their escape but changed her mind at the last moment from driving the escapees to an unknown location seven hours away. There's no evidence the men had an alternative escape plan, the prosecutor said.

Schools in the area were scheduled to reopen Monday after being closed Thursday and Friday.

Schools in the Saranac Central School District will have an "enhanced" law enforcement presence 7 a.m.–5 p.m., Superintendent Jonathan Parks said, and students will be kept indoors.

"Families are encouraged to have their children wait inside until the bus arrives in the morning, especially in active search areas," Parks said. "Please be assured that we will do all that we can to help everyone feel safe while they are at school."

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Joyce Mitchell, the New York state prison worker accused of assisting in the extraordinary escape of two convicted killers, pleaded not guilty in court Friday.

Mitchell, appearing silent and handcuffed in a lime green shirt alongside her attorney, was remanded into custody after pleading not guilty to the charges — promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation, the Associated Press reported. Her bail was set at $100,000.

Mitchell is due to return to court on Monday, when her attorney says he will make his arguments.

Meanwhile, the massive manhunt for David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48 — the convicted killers who broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora in an elaborate escape — remained ongoing.

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The New York prison worker accused of helping two convicted killers escape has been suspended from her job without pay.

A prison tailor shop instructor, Joyce Mitchell was charged and arrested Friday as an exhaustive search for convicts David Sweat and Richard Matt continued.

Shortly after her arrest, New York's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision told the Associated Press that Mitchell had been suspended without pay.

Mitchell's annual salary was $58,000.

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A prison worker charged with helping two convicted killers pull off an elaborate prison escape could face up to seven years behind bars, officials said Friday.

Joyce Mitchell was arrested and charged as hundreds of law enforcement officials scoured the area Friday as part of an ongoing search for the two men.

"This is one large piece of the puzzle to find these escaped murderers," Maj. Charles E. Guess of the New York State Police said during a news conference.

The arrest comes after authorities questioned Mitchell extensively about her role in the escape, officials said, calling their interview of the prison employee "fruitful and productive."

"We would not have charged her today if we had not been satisfied with the productivity of the interviews," Guess said.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said the investigation is still ongoing, and that more charges could still be filed.

Officials would not detail what Mitchell has told investigators. Her husband, Wylie said, has not been charged in the case.

Mitchell was to be arraigned in Plattsburgh later in the day.

Meanwhile, authorities are continuing to question other workers at the prison. And on Friday, more than 800 people continued to search for convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt, with helicopters overhead.

While weather conditions were not favorable for law enforcement, Guess said they could also be hampering the two men on the run.

"You got to assume they're cold, wet, and hungry," Guess said.

Addressing the two convicts, Guess added: "We're coming for you, and we won't stop until you're caught."

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New York State Police: Prison worker arrested in murders' jailbreak http://t.co/VpRINzX6Yr

Joyce Mitchell, an employee at the Clinton Correctional Facility, was arrested Friday and charged in connection to the escape of two convicts from the prison, according to the New York State Police.

The 51-year-old resident of Dickinson Center was charged with promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation, according to the agency.

Mitchell is believed to have helped convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from the prison, launching a extensive manhunt that remained ongoing Friday.

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Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told CNN that prison official Joyce Mitchell admitted to giving "some form of equipment or tools" to the escaped convicts.

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One of the prison employees whom investigators are questioning in regards to the escape was the subject of an earlier investigation because of her relationship to one of the runaway killers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The New York State Department of Corrections reportedly opened an inquiry into Joyce Mitchell sometime in the past 12 months, sources told the newspaper.

Mitchell, who supervised a prison workshop where inmates make uniforms for the Metro North Railroad, reportedly came to the attention of the authorities because of her closeness with David Sweat, one of the two killers who escaped on Saturday.

The inquiry did not yield enough evidence to merit disciplinary action against Mitchell, but Sweat was moved to a different workshop, the Journal reported.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections declined to comment to BuzzFeed News. The New York State Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the prior investigation.

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The search for the two convicted murderers is intensifying in a wooded area east of Clinton Correctional, the New York State Police said Thursday.

Graphic by @CNN shows the search area for two escaped prisoners in New York

"The focus of the ground search Thursday is a heavily wooded area off New York State Route 374, east of Dannemora," the NYSP said in a statement. "Search teams are following up on a lead that was developed late Wednesday."

As of Wednesday at noon, State Route 374 remained closed between General Leroy Manor Road and Plattsburgh, New York. The NYSP said local residents should expect to see "increased police presence throughout the day."

More than 500 law enforcement officers are involved in the search at this point, police said.

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Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said there is no "credible threat" against the state, but cautioned residents to expect a "heightened presence" of law enforcement officers in the area near the border with New York.

Speaking in a press conference on Thursday, Vermont officials said 50 state troopers had been deployed to special patrols around the lakes on the western edge of the state, but declined to indicate which specific communities were under investigation.

"Vermonters should not panic," said Gov. Shumlin. "They should do what they usually do."

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A state police spokesman told the New York Times that state agencies were searching a 5-square-mile area. While the bloodhounds picked up the scent, there has been no confirmed sighting of the two men.

An 8-mile stretch of State Route 374 is closed Thursday morning as police investigate. The Saranac Central School District also remains closed as the school superintendent said he wants to "get out of law enforcement's way."

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Police in New York closed a state highway Wednesday night and urged residents to stay indoors as the search for the escaped killers dragged on.

New York State Police closed Route 374 east of Dannemora Thursday to investigate a lead in the case. Police expected the road to remain closed until Thursday morning.

Authorities also advised residents of the area to remain indoors with their exterior lights on, according to WPTZ. Police told WPTZ they were investigating more than 500 leads Wednesday.

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Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday near the Clinton Correctional Facility, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Matt and Sweat could be headed to a camping ground in Vermont.

"It's very possible they had a several-hour head start on us," Cuomo said. "They could have escaped as early as midnight."

The inmates were not reported missing until 5:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Cuomo and Shumlin said the New York State Police and the Vermont State Police are coordinating efforts to find the killers. The FBI, the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, and the New York Department of Correction and Community Services are also participating in the search.

In total, some 450 law enforcement officers are involved in the manhunt, officials said.

The NYSP has received over 500 tips and is looking "under every rock and behind every tree," said police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico.

"I have no information on where they are, or what they are doing, I'll be honest with you," D'Amico said.

D'Amico added that the NYSP continues to search for the inmates in Willsboro, a small town 40 miles south of the prison, even though the original tip that led the police to the area turned out to be unfounded. State cops are also going door-to-door in Dannemora, the town where the prison is located.

Cuomo also confirmed that investigators are interviewing Joyce Mitchell, the seamstress who supervised the two inmates in a prison sewing shop, and who reportedly may have helped the inmates escape. He added that she is not the only employee under investigation.

"They're killers," Cuomo said, warning people not to confront the inmates and to alert the authorities of any suspicious activity. "They're murderers. There's no reason to believe they wouldn't do it again."

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Stephen King, author of the book that served as the inspiration for The Shawshank Redemption, voiced his opinion on the escape on Twitter.

Okay, the Dannemora break was a bit like Shawshank. Sometimes life imitates art, that's all. Except these are bad, bad boys.

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Joyce Mitchell, the seamstress who reportedly was questioned for her role in helping the inmates escape, had apparently planned to drive the getaway car for the two killers, sources told CNN.

Mitchell, whose cell phone was apparently used to call several numbers associated with one of the inmates, reportedly had a panic attack at the very last minute, checking herself into a hospital with "a case of the nerves," the network reported.

Still, contrary to some reports, no employees at the Clinton Correctional Facility have been suspended, union officials told Syracuse.com.

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State police said they will search homes in Dannemora, where the prison is located, on Wednesday.

Here's the full news release:

The New York State Police continue to investigate leads and search for two escaped inmates from the Clinton Correctional Facility.

Law enforcement will be searching homes in the village of Dannemora on Wednesday. These searches are not the result of a new lead, law enforcement are retracing steps made early in the investigation. Residents will notice an increased police presence in the area.

If members of the public see anything unusual upon arriving at their residence or seasonal homes, they are asked to contact law enforcement immediately.

The State Police have deployed all available assets in an effort to ensure the safety of the public.

We personally ask for the public's cooperation and vigilance throughout this investigation.

The public should make no hesitation to report any suspicious activity; that includes any sign of a trespass, burglary or vehicle larceny. Contact 911, your local law enforcement agency, or the New York State Police to report any information related to this investigation at (518) 563-3761 or 1-800-GIVETIP. Tips can also be sent by email to crimetip@troopers.ny.gov.

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Investigators have reportedly spoken with Mitchell and several other civilian workers and contractors at the prison in an effort to figure out how the inmates got power tools.

Her son, Tobey, told NBC News:

"She is not the kind of person that's going to risk her life or other people's lives to let these guys escape from prison."

He added that his mother was hospitalized with "severe chest pains."

"She's very nervous, she's a very nervous person," Mitchell told NBC News. "The truth will come out."

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