Prison Escape Investigation: Correction Officer Placed on Leave

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A correction officer at the New York prison where two convicted murderers escaped this month has been placed on leave as part of the investigation into the jailbreak, officials said.

The state Department of Corrections did not identify the officer or say why the officer was placed on leave, but said the action was related to the investigation into the June 6 escape at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

The convicted killers who escaped, Richard Matt and David Sweat, remain on the loose. They used power tools to saw through their cells and escape through a tunnel system that led to a manhole outside the prison walls.

New York State Police said late Friday that they were investigating possible sightings of the escaped inmates last week in Steuben County, roughly 300 miles south east of the prison. Witnesses reported seeing two men who may have fit the escapees' descriptions on June 13 walking near a rail yard in the town of Erwin, and, the next day, in the town of Lindley, heading toward the Pennsylvania Border.

Prison worker Joyce Mitchell has been charged with bringing tools into Clinton Correctional that Sweat and Matt used to escape. She worked in the facility's tailor shop. Mitchell has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of promoting prison contraband and a misdemeanor count criminal facilitation.

Mitchell was supposed to be the getaway driver and pick up the two convicts on the night of the escape, but apparently got cold feet and backed out, authorities said.

Matt, 48, was sentenced to 25 years to life for killing and dismembering a businessman in 1997. Sweat, 35, was sentenced to life without parole for his role in the fatal shooting of a sheriff's deputy.

On Thursday the U.S. Marshals Service placed Matt and Sweat on its 15 Most Wanted fugitives list in the hope of generating new leads.

New York state is offering a reward of $50,000 each for information that leads to the capture of one or both men, and the U.S. Marshals are offering a reward of up to $25,000 each.

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