Nine days into the search for escaped prisoners Richard Matt and David Sweat, authorities have turned eastward, a prison worker has been put in jail, and Mr. Sweat is spending his 35th birthday as a fugitive.
The police have expanded their door-to-door sweep into Plattsburgh, N.Y., about 14 miles away from east of Dannemora, N.Y., according to Reuters. Meanwhile, prison employee Joyce Mitchell faces charges for helping Sweat and Mr. Matt escape from Dannemora’s Clinton Correctional Facility.
Plattsburgh mayor James Calnon told USA Today that the police presence in the area was giving residents a little more peace of mind, even though the expansion of the search meant that people were advised to stay in their homes.
“People are nervous, but they understand the situation," Calnon said. "People are still living their lives. Just cautiously."
Cautiously, and only with the security of daylight. Peggy Rabideau, manager of Plattsburgh sandwich shop Ronnie’s Michigan Stand, said that during the day, Ronnie’s has been giving out free sandwiches to cops. In the evening, though, the business has begun closing its doors an hour earlier – at 8 pm instead of 9 pm – to let workers get home before dark.
“Everyone around here is just thinking of everyone else's safety," Rabideau told USA Today.
In Dannemora, police continue combing through forests and checking the trunks of cars at road checkpoints. The threat of Sweat and Mr. Matt’s presence has people locked inside their homes; resident Amy Daust, who lives down the road from the manhole through which the escapees emerged and can see Clinton from her house, told the LA Times her family has been sleeping with the lights on.
"You feel like the roles are reversed. It's like we're in prison now," Daust said.
More than 800 officials are now involved in the manhunt. Dogs picked up a scent at a nearby gas station last week, where CNN says authorities believe Sweat and Matt had been rifling through trash. For a brief period, the search had reached into Vermont, but the LA Times reports that police no longer suspect that the inmates have left New York.
While the most pressing question regarding the escape is the “where,” police are also looking into – and making headway on – the “how.”
It has been known that Matt and Sweat reached freedom by drilling through the prison walls and climbing through underground tunnels and out a manhole, but until recently it was unclear how they got access to the power tools. On Friday, Ms. Mitchell was arrested for promoting prison contraband and for criminal facilitation. Officials believe she provided Sweat and Matt with the tools needed for their escape, including hacksaw blades and chisels.
They also suspect she had been planning to pick Matt and Sweat up the morning of their escape and drive them to a location about seven hours away, but that she backed out at the last minute. Instead, Mitchell checked herself into a hospital Saturday morning with a panic attack. She will appear in court on Monday, and is currently being held at the Rensselaer County Correctional Facility.