Investigators have been talking to a 51-year-old female civilian employee at the Clinton Correctional Facility, as they probe who could have helped two convicted murderers break out of the prison. The Press-Republican identifies her as Joyce Mitchell: "She works in the the tailor shop, which is located in the main part of the prison, behind the high walls. She had become friendly with one of the fugitives, sources said."
Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, escaped at some point before prison workers realized they were unaccounted for at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The pair—who lived in neighboring cells—had crafted dummies out of sweatshirts, placing them in their beds, and crawled out of holes they cut—using some sort of power tools—through the wall, emerging into the prison's infrastructure of tunnels and catwalks, and then surfacing through a manhole outside the facility in Dannemora, NY. While prison tools are apparently accounted for, investigators are looking at whether contractors' tools were used in the plan.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has announced a $100,000 reward for their capture, believes it was an inside job: "We're looking at everything, primarily from the inside... We're going through the civilian employees and private contractors first. I'd be shocked if a correction guard was involved in this, but they definitely had help, otherwise, they couldn't have done this on their own, even from the equipment point of view."
Yesterday, the Post reported that a female worker was being questioned, suggesting that Matt, who was serving a 25-year sentence for killing and dismembering his boss, had "wooed" her. A retired detective who worked on Matt's case said, "He has a way with the ladies. When [Matt’s] cleaned up, he’s very handsome and, in all frankness, very well endowed. He gets girlfriends anyplace he goes."
Mitchell, who is married to another employee at the prison, is an industrial training supervisor at Clinton's tailor shop. ABC News reports, "Mitchell has worked at Clinton Correctional since 2010, according to the records, and supervises inmate work assignments." Investigators had been going through her trash.
Further, Matt and Sweat had been assigned to "honor block" housing where inmates can visit each other and can wear street clothes. A source told the Post "that a local resident who spotted the men in his back yard soon after their break failed to report it to authorities because he didn’t recognize them as prisoners."
The Daily News detailed how the men probably got out—they had a guitar case full of tools:
Using hacksaws, they cut the 3/8-inch-thick steel walls around air vents near the heads of their cots to form man-size openings they could slip through. They kept the vents in place to avoid detection. The paint on the walls is so irregular and chipped that it was impossible to tell they had been tampered with, the sources said.
The vents led to a labyrinth of cobweb-covered catwalks, but before the cons ventured out, they stuffed their sweatshirts with clothes to fool the guards making bed checks every two hours.
Then, carrying the tools in a guitar case one of the inmates had in his cell, Matt and Sweat shimmied six stories down pipes — from catwalk to catwalk — until they reached the ground floor.
There they identified the main steampipe and followed it through the various subterranean tunnels, figuring it would lead them to the outside.
At one point, they reached a wall and were able to pass through after knocking out a few bricks. The next wall they hit was the massive prison wall, and there was no going through that.
Holes in the stones suggest they tried to drill through it, and then came up with a brilliant Plan B.
Realizing the steampipes aren’t used in warm weather, they cut one opening into the 24-inch diameter steel pipe at the base of the wall — then cut another opening from inside the pipe on the other side of the wall.
It was not clear when Matt and Sweat began working on their escape plan, but officials said it appears to have taken a lot of labor. And to power their tools, they hot-wired the electrical junction boxes and strung extension cords...
Once they got beyond the wall, they followed the pipe through the public sewer system until they found a manhole well beyond the prison, sources said.
Finding it chained and padlocked from the inside, the convicts used the tools in the guitar case to get past this last barrier and pushed the manhole aside.
A source told the News that contractors' tools aren't monitored at all, "The guards inspect the van on the way in for contraband and inspect it on the way out for prisoners. But they don’t make sure that the guy came in with five drills and left with five drills."
Cuomo said that other inmates must have heard the noise from the escape, or "they're all heavy sleepers." But State Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, who heads the Correction Committee, said that the culture is very violent and focused on silencing complaints about abuse by other inmates and guards: "Let me be clear, that will get you killed, that's the kind of environment it is."