Convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat have been on the run since June 6
Mitchell, a prison tailor, allegedly provided them with the tools for their brazen escape
A New York prison tailor who allegedly aided a pair of convicted murderers before their brazen escape was arraigned Friday on a felony charge of promoting prison contraband and a misdemeanor charge of criminal facilitation.
Mitchell allegedly provided Richard Matt and David Sweat with the tools to cut through cell walls for their escape from an upstate New York prison a week ago.
“The defendant did intentionally … and unlawfully introduce hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit, dangerous contraband, into Clinton Correctional Facility,” court records said.
Mitchell allegedly brought the items to the prison on May 1.
She was arraigned Friday night on a felony charge of promoting prison contraband and a misdemeanor charge of criminal facilitation. She pleaded not guilty.
Matt and Sweat were discovered missing on June 6 during a 5:30 a.m. bed check at Clinton Correctional Facility.
Convict made her feel ‘special’
While making their escape, they slipped through holes and cut into a steel plate and a steam pipe, then got out through the manhole and onto the street.
And Mitchell had a lot to do with their ability to plan out the daring escape, authorities said.
She supplied tools used in the escape and was their possible getaway driver before she got cold feet, authorities said. Her cell phone was also used to make calls to people connected to Matt, according to a source. It’s not known who made these calls.
And, he said, the manipulation of Mitchell may go as far back as 2013, when the trio met.
Her husband and prison co-worker, Lyle Mitchell, is also under investigation, but has not been arrested or charged, authorities said. He worked in the maintenance department at the tailoring block where his wife was employed, Wylie said.
Lyle Mitchell has worked at the prison since 2005, most recently as an industrial training supervisor, the same title his wife held.
Lyle Mitchell cried when allegations surfaced against his wife, according to a friend who did not want to be named. The friend said Lyle Mitchell asked how his wife could do such a thing.
How did she allegedly help convicts?
Joyce Mitchell provided hacksaw blades, drill bits and lighted eyeglasses to the convicts before their escape, sources said.
The hacksaw blades and other items given to Matt were purchased over the past few months, according to law enforcement sources.
Matt and Sweat used power tools to cut through cell walls that included a steel plate and sever a 24-inch steam pipe – once to get in and once more to get out – and surfaced through a manhole. Despite all the time, effort and noise likely involved, authorities didn’t learn anything was awry until a bed check at 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
Authorities strongly believe the fugitives are still together after deciding to continue their escape as a pair, two law enforcement sources briefed on the matter said.
A tactical search team discovered human tracks and bloodhounds picked up the scent of the felons – leading investigators to the area where the two men apparently bedded down. Wrappers found at that area were consistent with food wrappers from the prison commissary, according to the source.
Investigating relationships, cell phone
State Department of Corrections officials had received a complaint about the relationship between Joyce Mitchell and one of the two escapees. The department didn’t find enough evidence to support the complaint, but that does not mean there was no relationship, Wylie said.
“I don’t believe that the information was that there was absolutely no relationship,” said Wylie, the district attorney.
Mitchell’s next court appearance is Monday.
On Saturday, she was transferred from the Clinton County Jail about 150 miles south to the Rensselaer County Correctional Facility.
The move was meant to avoid the distraction of jailing her near the massive manhunt, Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said.
More than 800 state, local and federal law enforcement officers are searching for the escapees, New York State Police said. They have been following more than 700 leads developed in the weeklong manhunt.
Tracking dogs picked up the scent of both prisoners at the station and followed it east toward the town of Cadyville, Wylie said. The gas station has a Subway sandwich shop, and the two might have been rummaging for food in the trash bin, authorities said.
“It could have been something that occurred earlier in the week,” the district attorney said Friday of when the scent was left. “But we’re hoping that it was two nights ago, and they’re closing in on the two men right now.”
Sweat was serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for the murder of a Broome County sheriff’s deputy in 2002. Matt was sentenced to 25 years to life for the kidnapping and murder of a man in 1997.
The manhunt for the convicts has expanded in Plattsburgh, in upstate New York, where authorities have shut a portion of state Route 374.
“The perimeter is continuing to be closed in,” the district attorney said Friday morning. “And we hope … that this will be effective in bringing these two men back into custody.”
CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Linh Tran, Miguel Marquez, Dominique Dodley, Greg Botelho and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.