State Police Release New Images of Escaped Murderers, Expand Search Area

State police released new images of what two escaped murderers might look like after nearly two weeks on the lam as they expanded the search perimeter beyond the 16-square-mile area of northern New York woods, fields and swamps where the manhunt has been most intense.

New renderings of Richard Matt and David Sweat, the two men who cut their way out of Clinton Correctional Facility in a Hollywood-style breakout on June 6, were released at a briefing on Wednesday. The images are similar to the mugshots released after the escape, but feature the men with beards. 

Meanwhile, authorities announced they were expanding the so-far unsuccessful dragnet for the men. The more than 800 law enforcement officers who have checked more than 500 homes and summer cabins as they combed the rural area 20 miles from the Canadian border have shifted their focus eastward from Dannemora, the village near the maximum-security institution.

All road blocks were removed near the prison Wednesday, and law enforcement officers were transitioning from a door-to-door manhunt to a more traditional fugitive search, law enforcement sources familiar with the operation told NBC 4 New York. The sources said personnel would also be scaled back, and reiterated there had been no significant leads or sightings of the murderers.

Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole in the killing of a sheriff's deputy. Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Meanwhile, the prison worker charged with helping the killers flee by providing them with hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools was visited in jail Tuesday by her husband, also a prison worker.

Favro described Joyce Mitchell as "composed" during the morning visit with her husband, Lyle Mitchell.

Prosecutors say Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who sources say "thought it was love" with Matt and had been investigated for a sexual incident with Sweat, had allegedly helped the men get hacksaws and drill bits to bust out, then agreed to be the getaway driver but backed out because she still loved her husband and felt guilty for participating. Sources have said she may have also plotted with the two murderers to kill the men. 

Lyle Mitchell told his attorney after the visit Tuesday, "There's no way I'm standing behind her."

District Attorney Andrew 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.

But Favro said, "I find it difficult to believe right from Day 1 that they would go through that — probably took some time to really map together -- and they would get out on the hopes that a civilian worker that they found would assist them in actually getting away."

Mitchell was charged Friday with supplying contraband, including a punch and a screwdriver, to the two inmates. She has pleaded not guilty. She has been suspended without pay from her $57,000-a-year job overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines.

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.

Wylie says they apparently used tools stored by prison contractors, taking care to return them to their toolboxes after each night's work.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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