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Search for 'Dangerous' New York State Prison Escapees Enters Second Day

by Elisha Fieldstadt /  / Updated 

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More than 250 officers from numerous law enforcement agencies were monitoring checkpoints and searching mountainous upstate New York terrain Sunday in hopes of catching two convicted murderers who executed an elaborate escape from a maximum security prison the day before.

The stunning breakout was the first for the maximum security portion of Clinton Correctional Facility since the Dannemora, New York, prison opened 150 years ago.

Richard Matt, 48, who killed and dismembered his boss in 1997, and David Sweat, 34, who killed a sheriff's deputy in 2002, used power tools to gain access to catwalks, then a series of pipes and tunnels, which led to a manhole a block away from the prison, according to authorities.

"It was a sophisticated plan. It required a period of time, no doubt, to execute,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

More than 250 local, state and federal officials, including U.S. Marshals and FBI agents, are on the hunt for the inmates, Cuomo said during a call with reporters Sunday. Bloodhounds and aircraft are being used in the search.

The state is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who provides a tip that leads to the apprehension of both inmates, Cuomo said. “This is an unusual step for the state but given the severity, we think it is appropriate,” he said.

Cuomo warned that the “dangerous” inmates could have traveled anywhere within the state, into other states or crossed the Canadian border, which lies less than 25 miles from the prison.

“We should be on alert all across the state, as well as neighboring states,” Cuomo said, adding that local authorities were coordinating with Canadian authorities.

“I would not have put it past them, whatsoever, that they could have acquired an automobile,” he said.

New York State Police Maj. Charles Guess said Mexican authorities had also been alerted. "We're leaving no stone unturned. They could be literally anywhere," he said.

Questions about where the inmates got the power tools have yet to be answered as all of the prison's tools have been accounted for.

Cuomo said earlier Sunday Matt and Sweat had to have made quite the audible exit as they cut through steel and shimmied through pipes. "They were heard, they had to be heard," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America," Sunday.

But guards were unaware of their escape until 5:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Cuomo, who said the inmates left objects in their beds to make it look like people were sleeping inside the cells.

They also left behind a taunting note with an offensive caricature and the message: "Have a nice day!"

Residents in the neighborhood surrounding the prison told NBC News that they are on edge Sunday morning.

Paula Ashley, who lives two blocks from the manhole that the prisoners emerged from, told NBC News that she couldn't believe the situation that was unfolding in Dannemora, a town of less than 5,000 people. "Is this a drill or is this for real," she asked. "This is very scary. This is my backyard. This is where my son plays outside."

Elizabeth Ahern, who lives in Saranac, just five miles from the prison, said she locked her doors for the first time in 30 years Saturday night, but added, "they're not gonna scare us North Country people. We know how to handle a gun or a knife."

"It's not good," said Phillip Tarsia, the father of Sweat's victim, Sheriff's Deputy Richard Tarsia. Tarsia's brother Steven Tarsia told The Associated Press that the escape of — 13 years after Richard's death — "turns your world upside-down all over again."

William Rickerson Jr., whose father was Matt's victim, told NBC News, "I just hope they catch him."

Sweat is described as white, 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds with brown hair and green eyes and tattoos on his left bicep and right fingers.

Matt is 6 feet, 210 pounds with black hair and hazel eyes, a "Mexico Forever" tattoo on his back, a heart tattoo on his chest and left shoulder and a Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder, state police said.

“We will not rest until we have these two individuals in custody,” Cuomo said Sunday.

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