Only about 20 law enforcement officers continued to scour the small upstate New York town of Willsboro on Tuesday night after a massive search failed to turn up Richard Matt and David Sweat, the convicted murderers who busted out of a maximum-security prison over the weekend with power tools.
At the height of the search, scores of FBI agents, state troopers, forest rangers, sheriff's deputies, K-9 units and state Corrections Department agents, supported by a helicopter, responded along Middle Road in Willsboro.
Law enforcement officials told NBC News the swarm descended on the town after they got a specific tip from the Willsboro area, which is across Lake Champlain from Burlington, Vermont, and about 40 miles southeast of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, from which the men escaped overnight Friday.
By late Tuesday, most of them had left empty-handed. NBC station WPTZ of Plattsburgh, New York, reported Tuesday night that the focus of the search had returned to Dannemora.
More than 250 local, state and federal officials have pursued hundreds of leads in the search for Matt and Sweat. They busted out by cutting holes in the steel backs of their cells, seemingly with power tools, and climbing through pipes and tunnels until they reached and broke open a manhole cover a block away.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said all of the prison's tools were accounted for after the escape, presenting the question of where the men got the equipment they needed to cut through steel.
"They definitely had help," Cuomo said Monday. "Otherwise, they couldn't have done this on their own, even from the equipment point of view."
Tobey Mitchell, the son of Joyce Mitchell, a Clinton Correctional Facility employee, confirmed that state police were questioning his mother in connection with the brazen escape. But he said Joyce Mitchell — who authorities said checked herself into a hospital Saturday — would have never played a part in helping the prisoners break free.
"She's not going to risk her life or other people's lives to help these guys escape," he said.