Breaking News Emails
Captured convict David Sweat — who is portraying himself as the "mastermind" behind the elaborate two-man escape from an upstate New York prison — did a "dry run" practice session the night before actually breaking free, prosecutors revealed Tuesday.
Sweat, 35, who is recovering in a hospital after he was shot twice by police and apprehended near the Canadian border on Sunday, confessed to the nighttime June 6 escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility, according to Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie.
Sweat said that he and fellow inmate Richard Matt began planning the prison break in January, and used only hacksaws to cut through their cell walls, Wylie told NBC News. The pair had to snake and slice their way through steam pipes to get to an underground tunnel system; Sweat added that Matt "rarely" ventured down there, Wylie said.
But on June 5, the men both went through the tunnels and ended up at a manhole near the prison facility in the town of Dannemora that was close to homes, Sweat said. They peeked their heads out, but decided it would not be the right manhole to escape from.
Instead, they decided, when it came time to bust out of Clinton, they would pop out from a different manhole that seemed slightly more secluded, Sweat added.
The convicted killer told investigators that prison worker Joyce Mitchell was supposed to pick up them up the night of the actual escape, and they were going to head for West Virginia, and then, eventually, Mexico.
But when Mitchell was a no-show, the men decided to head north toward Canada.
The prison seamstress was arrested and charged with providing escape tools to the fugitives.
"It's shocking that two individuals were able to execute this escape from Dannemora in the manner and fashion that it occurred," said Wylie, adding, "To make a dry run and ... have the ability to escape, and then go back in, it is a little baffling."
Matt, 49, was fatally shot by a federal agent on Friday while the men were on the lam. At that point, however, Matt and Sweat had split up after Sweat believed Matt, who had been drinking, was slowing him down.
Prior to that, the pair traversed dense woods and swamps, broke into cabins and set up campsites as they tried to outrun hundreds of law enforcement agents. At one campsite, the men had access to a radio that they used to keep tabs on authorities.
The cunning convicts had several close calls, Wylie added. During one, Matt was surprised when he came near a sheriff's deputy, fell backwards and made a noise, Sweat told investigators, but they got away undetected.
In another instance, Sweat said, he was in a tree stand while border patrol agents swarmed around him but failed to notice him.
Sweat spun an incredible tale — but it still needs to be thoroughly vetted, Wylie added.
"He's a convicted felon, obviously convicted of a serious murder, and he escaped from state prison, so those are his statements and that's all I can go on," Wylie said.