Search Expands in Hunt for Escaped Killers David Sweat and Richard Matt

by Phil Helsel /  / Updated 

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Authorities said Sunday they were expanding their search in the manhunt for two escaped killers who continue to elude hundreds of police officers searching woodlands in upstate New York.

More than 800 law enforcement officers have been involved in the search for David Sweat and Richard Matt, and more than 700 tips have come in, state police said.

Police have been focusing on an area southeast of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora and expanded farther east Sunday — the ninth day of the manhunt.

"You follow up every tip. You follow up every lead. You are as conscientious as you can be on every lead, because you never know which one is going to be the one," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. "We don't know if they are still in the immediate area or if they are in Mexico by now."

The convicted killers sawed through the walls of their cells and climbed through an underground steam pipe to escape the maximum-security prison in the early morning hours of June 6.

Police with search dogs and assisted by aircraft have blanketed the area near Dannemora, a rural area near the Vermont border not far from the Canadian border.

Police said they would continue searching along Route 374, which remained closed between General Leroy Manor and Rand Hill roads, while the search would expand toward the east side of Trudeau Road.

"I just mowed some fields, and I kept looking over my shoulder. It's scary," Jason Hamel, who lives with his wife and three young daughters in West Chazy five minutes from one of the many roadblocks set up in the manhunt, told The Associated Press. "I won't let the kids outside."

"My wife and I love to be outdoors," he told the AP. "We haven't done any of that, and when we do go outside now, we're armed."

Students of the nearby Saranac School District won't be allowed outside Monday, but they will be in class for the first time since Wednesday, according to the district, which had called off school because of the manhunt.

A prison worker charged with providing material assistance to Matt and Sweat planned to pick the men up on the night of the escape but got cold feet, District Attorney Andrew Wylie said.

"At the last moment that Friday afternoon or Friday evening, she bailed out," Wylie told NBC News. "Hopefully, that means they [the escapees] are still out here in close proximity to the facility."

The prison worker, Joyce Mitchell, 51, is charged with promoting prison contraband, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. She pleaded not guilty Friday and is due in court Monday morning.

"To the extent any state employee was involved in facilitating the escape, that is a crime in and of itself, and that will be fully prosecuted as a crime in and of itself," Cuomo said. "We will have zero tolerance for that."

Matt, 48, was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2008 for killing and dismembering a businessman whose torso was discovered in the Niagara River by a fisherman. He had also escaped from prison once before, in 1986.

Sweat pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole in the shooting death of Kevin Tarsia, a sheriff's deputy in Broome County, New York, on July 4, 2002

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