Joyce Mitchell, the prison employee charged with helping convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, smuggled tools into the prison by hiding them in frozen meat, authorities said Tuesday.
For months, the prison tailor bribed the correctional officers with baked goods to help her bypass metal detectors, a law enforcement official told CNN.
One guard Ms. Mitchell won over helped pass frozen hamburger meat to Mr. Matt, who, along with Mr. Sweat, had been living in a section of the prison that allowed inmates to cook their own meals, said Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wiley. Both Matt and Sweat had been housed in the honor block for good behavior.
Ms. Mitchell told investigators that inside the meat were hacksaw blades, a screwdriver, and other tools.
The guard, Gene Palmer, was conned by Mitchell and didn’t know what was inside the meat, said his lawyer, Andrew Brockway. Mr. Palmer is now on paid leave.
Authorities said Mitchell had also arranged with prison officials to have Sweat’s cell moved next to Matt’s. Whether she was also bribing these officials remains unclear.
As she remains in custody, Mitchell’s husband, Lyle, has also spoken out about the brazen escape. Mr. Mitchell is “absolutely 100 percent” certain that the pair would have killed both him and his wife, had she gone through with the plan to be their getaway driver, he told NBC in an interview that aired Tuesday.
The manhunt entered its 18th day Wednesday and so far has enlisted the help of as many as 1,000 law enforcement officers. It refocused to the woods after DNA evidence placed the escapees in a burglarized cabin some 20 miles from the maximum-security prison, making it the most promising lead yet, a law enforcement official told CNN.
Among the discovered items was a pair of boots, which may suggest that the men had left in a hurry and that one is bare foot, said the source.
Investigators have expanded the search to cover forests, railroad beds, and summer cabins that are often left empty for months at a time.
"If they're here, we're going to find them," said Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.