What We Know: David Sweat and Richard Matt, Escaped Inmates, Still on the Run

by Erin McClam and Erik Ortiz /  / Updated 

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It’s been a week since two killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, sawed through steel to escape their cells at a New York prison, then crept through a pipe, poked through a manhole — and vanished.

Authorities have filled in some details on the investigation, but much remains unanswered as hundreds of law enforcement officers comb the woods of upstate New York looking for the men.

Here’s a look at what’s known and unknown.

Where are they?

The most urgent question. Matt and Sweat have killed before, and authorities have warned that they should be considered extremely dangerous — and increasingly desperate to maintain their freedom.

The search has focused on a few square miles of land around the prison, in Dannemora, New York, after police dogs picked up the men’s scent. In that area alone, more than 800 law enforcement officers searched on Friday, assisted by infrared-equipped helicopters. Police said there have been no confirmed sightings of either man.

New York State Police Maj. Charles Guess told reporters Friday night that "We do not have any conclusive evidence that either of the inmates has left this area," but that national and international resources are tracking the escape path.

Authorities have also said there is reason to believe the two men might have headed for Vermont because they thought the law enforcement presence there would be “cooler.” Police in Canada are searching, too.

But Sweat and Matt could be anywhere. As Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters: "Look, they could either be four miles from the prison or they could be in Mexico. Right? So you just don't know."

How did they pull it off?

The escape was daring and sophisticated. Sweat and Matt used power tools to cut through the walls of their cells and shimmied through an underground steam pipe. They were confident enough to leave a crude, taunting note: "Have a Nice Day."

Authorities said from the start that they must have had help, and on Friday police arrested Joyce Mitchell, an instructor in the prison tailor shop, and charged her with providing contraband to the two men.

Sources close to the investigation told NBC News that Matt charmed her, to the point that “she thought it was love.” She was supposed to be the getaway driver but got cold feet, these sources said.

Officials did not say what contraband was brought into prison, but the local district attorney said Friday that investigators do not believe Mitchell gave the men power tools.

What’s going to happen to Joyce Mitchell?

Mitchell is charged with first-degree promoting prison contraband, a felony, and fourth-degree criminal facilitation, a misdemeanor, police said.

If convicted, Mitchell could face up to seven years in prison for the first charge and up to a year in jail for the second charge, said Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie. He said Mitchell could face more charges.

Wylie would not comment on what might happen to Mitchell if the escapees kill or commit other crimes while they are out.

On Friday, Mitchell was suspended without pay from her $57,697-a-year job at the Clinton Correctional Facility, according to records.

How long can these two last?

If Mitchell was meant to be the getaway driver, that means a critical part of the men’s escape plan has gone awry.

With no indication from authorities that they have stolen a means of transportation or robbed anyone for supplies, they are presumed to be scraping by with meager resources.

"My thinking is they are going to get desperate," Shane Hobel, founder of the Mountain Scout Survival School in upstate New York, told NBC News. "It’s cold out there. There’s the factor of running out of food, running out of water and certainly running out of places to go."

The elements may work to their advantage: It was raining Friday in the search zone, and rain can diminish the scene left by the inmates and wash away their tracks.

"We've got to assume they're cold, wet, tired and hungry," Guess, the state police major, told reporters at a news conference Friday night.

"We have a message for David Sweat and Richard Matt: We're coming for you and we will not stop until you are caught," he said.

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