The husband of a prison seamstress who helped two murder convicts escape says he still loves his wife, will wait for her to get out of jail, and thinks they can continue to live in the same community that was terrorized by the three-week manhunt.
In an exclusive interview, Lyle Mitchell told NBC News that he forgives wife Joyce for befriending prisoners Richard Matt and David Sweat and smuggling some of the tools they used to bust out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
"My wife has a heart of gold," he said. "That's her biggest downfall."
"In the beginning everybody flirts," he added. "And it got out of hand.'
Watch "The Accomplice," Dateline's exclusive report on the escape, at 9 p.m. ET Friday on NBC
Joyce, 51, has pleaded guilty to promoting contraband for her role in an escape that drew comparisons to the movie "The Shawshank Redemption." She faces up to seven years in prison when she is sentenced Sept. 28.
In a jailhouse interview with TODAY host Matt Lauer, the mother of three described how she fell for the attention Matt and Sweat showered on her and got sucked into their plan to break out of the maximum-security lockup through a sewer pipe.
The convicts told Joyce Mitchell they would kill her husband and take her on the lam if she met them with a getaway car and a sawed-off shotgun, she says. She didn't show up because, she says, she loved Lyle.
Not only does Lyle Mitchell believe his wife, he feels guilt. He believes the inmates convinced Joyce he was paying attention to another woman and did not love her any more. Joyce has said the belief that her marriage was falling apart left her vulnerable to the prisoners.
"When they suddenly find a weakness, they got ya," said Lyle, who also worked in the prison.
Flirtation eventually turned to fear, the Mitchells claim. In her statements to police, Joyce said Matt forced her to fondle and perform oral sex on him.
"I asked her why she did not tell anybody. She said, 'Lyle, I was so petrified,'" the husband said.
He believes that Joyce told him the whole truth about her dealings with Matt, who was killed after three weeks on the run, and with Sweat, who was shot and captured two days after that.
Even though she supplied some of the tools that allowed them to cut through their cell walls, he thinks seven years is too a harsh a punishment.
"I'm hoping she'll be home in less than two," he said. "I think they'll put more onto her than what should be."
Even though the community is still upset with Joyce for what she did, he also said they will stay in the same area near the Canadian border.
"We have very good neighbors," he said. "A lot of them stopped by the house. They check on me. They ask how my wife is doing."
Asked if he could ever really trust his wife after so many lies, Lyle Mitchell said does.
"Yes," he said. "100 percent."