Escaped Prison Inmates Possibly Armed, Police Warn

The search for Richard Matt and David Sweat is now focused on rural Franklin County, New York

On day 19 of the manhunt for Richard Matt and David Sweat, the convicted killers who broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora earlier this month, searchers focused their efforts on rural Franklin County, New York.

New York State Police said a force of 1,000 members of law enforcement is combing through a 75 square-mile section of wilderness.

Investigators zeroed in on the area after saying this weekend, they discovered the escaped prison inmates broke into a hunting cabin near Owls Head, apparently resting, eating and drinking.

It may have been the strongest lead yet in this case that New York State Police Maj. Charles Guess said has generated more than 2,200 leads so far.

"We're going to be relentless until we capture these people," Guess said. "Bottom line is, we don't want them to have a restful, peaceful night, putting their head on any pillow."

Guess told reporters it is certainly possible Matt and Sweat are armed. He pointed out seasonal cabins in the North Country could've been targets for burglaries, and many of them house guns.

"We have, since day one, operated under the belief that these men are armed and dangerous," Guess said. "These men are extremely cunning, why wouldn't they try to arm themselves immediately upon escape?"

NBC News reported the cabin yielded clues including DNA matching the inmates, as well as a water jug and a partially-eaten jar of peanut butter.

Journalists asked Guess about reports there was a bloody sock discovered in the cabin where he said Matt and Sweat spent time. He could not say if it was an indication an escapee may be injured, or if he merely suffered a minor problem, like a blister.

Guess said he hopes the prisoners are experiencing some type of impediment to their escape, noting that, unimpeded, they could be making progress of about 10 miles a day on foot, especially if they reached an ATV trail or other clearer route of travel.

Outdoors experts have called the search area some of the most rugged terrain east of the Mississippi. It is full of marshes, thick brush, unforgiving elevation changes, and likely, nasty bugs.

"Searchers are methodically moving through an environment that is not only difficult to navigate, but the distance you can see ahead of you is sometimes only a few feet or less," said Capt. John Streiff, of the New York Forest Rangers.

Perry Scott, a resident of Owls Head, told necn he has seen hundreds of searchers pass his property in the past few days in the ongoing manhunt. He said even though the thought of the prisoners passing through the community has been unnerving, the large police presence has given him some peace of mind.

"It would be real easy to hide," Scott observed, describing the rough terrain in the area. "I think if the guys got any common sense, they're following the rivers and the streams to throw the [search] dogs off track."

Guess said he cannot be sure if Sweat and Matt have broken up, or if they are still together. He said investigators are considering both scenarios.

Anyone who sees Richard Matt or David Sweat is encouraged to call 911 immediately. Others with possible information to aid investigators may call 1-800-GIVE-TIP.

Guess said he is still interested in learning if anyone has any surveillance video taken after the June 6 prison escape that may have been taken from a trail camera or other source that may show suspicious men. 

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