2 convicted killers escape maximum security prison in New York
(CNN) – Hundreds of authorities are scrambling to find two convicted killers who cut their way out of a maximum security prison in upstate New York with power tools.
Officials discovered Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, were missing Saturday morning during a “standing count” of inmates at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, state police said.
The two men cut through a steel wall and followed a series of tunnels until they emerged from a manhole outside the prison walls.
Matt was convicted on three counts of murder, three counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery after he kidnapped a man and beat him to death in December 1997, state police said. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Sweat was serving life without parole after his conviction of first-degree murder in the death of a Broome County sheriff’s deputy in July 2002, state police said.
More than 200 law enforcement officers are scouring the area for the escapees, with troopers setting up checkpoints on nearby highways.
The escape was the first out of the maximum security part of the prison, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“These are dangerous people,” the governor said. “They are nothing to be trifled with.”
Despite that danger, the massive law enforcement presence is assuaging people’s fears, the manager at the Dannemora Mobil station said Sunday morning.
“It feels safe to come to work,” said the manager, Luke, who declined to give his last name.
He said he had little time to talk, because he was so busy serving coffee to police and corrections officers.
“We’re trying to help, delivering water to the main gate … help with whatever they need.”
An elaborate escape
Matt and Sweat apparently were last seen at 10:30 p.m. Friday during a standing count, authorities said. Head counts are performed every two hours throughout the night when guards visually check to see whether inmates are in their bunks, Clinton Correctional Facility Supervisor Steven Racette said.
The escapees tricked the guards by arranging things in the bunks to look “like people were sleeping … with these sweatshirt hoodies on,” the governor said. The inmates were discovered missing at the 5:30 a.m. inmate count Saturday.
The men had side-by-side cells and apparently obtained power tools to cut through the steel wall in their cells, officials said.
Exactly how they got the power tools remains a mystery.
Clinton Correctional Facility was built in 1845 and undergoes regular maintenance, so it’s possible the tools came from the workers who are often inside the facility, Cuomo said.
The escapees followed a catwalk “down an elaborate maze of pipes into tunnels and exited a series of tunnels at the manhole cover,” he said.
Prison officials took the governor through the escape route.
“It was elaborate, it was sophisticated,” he said. “It involved drilling through steel walls, steel pipes.”
The facility, in the sparsely populated northeast corner of New York, is the state’s largest prison with a population of 2,689 inmates, the corrections department said. Clinton Correctional Facility’s nickname is “Little Siberia,” because of its remote location, in a region where wintry weather can persist for more than half the year.
State police have set up roadblocks in the Dannemora area, and armed troopers are searching vehicles, CNN affiliate WPTZ-TV in Plattsburgh reported. Troopers and corrections officers are also searching the woods in the area.
Matt is white, 6 feet tall and 210 pounds. He has black hair, hazel eyes and several tattoos: “Mexico Forever” on his back, a heart on his chest and left shoulder, and a Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder.
Sweat is white, 5 feet, 11 inches tall and 165 pounds. He has brown hair, green eyes and tattoos on his left bicep and his right fingers.
Authorities ask anyone who sees them to call New York State Police or 911.
Before fleeing the prison, the men left behind a yellow sticky note on a pipe.
“Have a Nice Day!” it read.