PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — A prison worker charged with helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum-security facility had discussed with them a murder-for-hire plot involving her husband, a district attorney confirmed Wednesday.
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said at a news conference that Joyce Mitchell talked to inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat about the possibility of them killing her husband, Lyle.
Both Joyce Mitchell and Lyle Mitchell work at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.
Meanwhile, state police expanded the search for the killers beyond a 16-square-mile area of woods, fields and swamps where the manhunt has been most intense.
Officials said the number of law enforcement officers involved in the search had been reduced from more than 800 earlier in the week to more than 600 Wednesday. Roadblocks along the road leading into Dannemora had been removed while more roving patrols were added in the area around the prison, officials said.
Sweat and Matt escaped June 6 from the 170-year-old prison near the Canadian border.
Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole in the killing of a sheriff’s deputy. Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.
Joyce Mitchell is charged with helping the killers flee by providing them with hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She was visited in jail Tuesday by her husband.
Clinton County Sheriff David Favro described Joyce Mitchell as “composed” during the visit.
Prosecutors say Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who befriended the inmates, had agreed to be the getaway driver but backed out because she still loved her husband and felt guilty for participating.
Lyle Mitchell arrived with his attorney late Wednesday morning at the state police barracks in Malone to talk to them, the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh reported.
Investigators have no information that Lyle Mitchell knew about the escape plan or assisted in it, Wylie said.
Joyce Mitchell was charged last week with supplying contraband, including a punch and a screwdriver, to the two inmates. She has pleaded not guilty. She has been suspended without pay from her $57,000-a-year job overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines.
Authorities say the convicts used power tools to cut through the backs of their adjacent cells, broke through a brick wall and then cut into a steam pipe and slithered through it, finally emerging outside the prison walls through a manhole. Wylie says they apparently used tools stored by prison contractors, taking care to return them to their toolboxes after each night’s work.