Authorities say Mitchell, a supervisor in the prison’s tailor shop, smuggled hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit into the maximum-security facility — tools that aided convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat in their daring escape last weekend.
Mitchell’s arrest came after she provided information about the escape, and New York State Police Maj. Charles Guess said authorities will now “move on with other aspects of the investigation.”
“Our interviews with Joyce Mitchell have been fruitful and productive,” he said at a news conference. “We’re satisfied and would not have charged her if we weren’t satisfied with the productivity of those interviews.”
The manhunt for Matt and Sweat continues a week after they made their brazen escape from the prison in Dannemora, N.Y. Authorities are continuing the manhunt and are focusing on a heavily wooded area not far from the facility where the men had been held, after tracking dogs picked up their scent.
Authorities believe the men remain in the area near the prison and are together, Guess said at a news conference following Mitchell’s arrest.
“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.
The New York State Police said Friday that “more than 800 law enforcement officers from state, local and federal agencies are assisting” in the search, which was focused along State Route 374 in the town of Plattsburgh, which is east of Cadyville. The road has been closed since Wednesday.
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told CNN on Thursday night that police dogs picked up the scent of fugitives at a gas station not far from the prison in Dannemora. The dogs followed the scent east to the tiny town of Cadyville as the ground search intensified.
After Mitchell’s arrest, Wylie told reporters she could face additional charges in the future. The AP noted that
Mitchell is also suspected of agreeing to be a getaway driver but didn’t show up, leaving the men on foot early Saturday morning.
Though she initially provided “minimal information,” Wylie said hours before her arrest, Mitchell had become more cooperative with investigators: “Each day, we’re learning more and more” about “what her involvement was, what her relationships were with both Matt and Sweat.”
Wylie also said that Mitchell was previously investigated following a complaint about her relationship with Sweat. “It was unfounded,” he said. “There wasn’t sufficient information to either block her out of the facility [or] have some type of formal charges within the facility filed against her.”
But, he said, the two were kept separate “for a period of time.”
The ground search is growing even as the search zone has tightened: The number of law enforcement officers involved in the manhunt swelled by several hundred between Thursday and Friday, according to New York State Police, which noted that “the extra manpower is necessary to ensure that rest periods are being provided for the members” during the operation.
Dogs and aerial units have also been deployed in the search for Matt and Sweat, who used tools to break out of the prison last Friday night or early Saturday morning. The manhunt is now in its eighth day.
According to authorities, Matt, 48, and Sweat, 34, used tools to drill through the prison’s steel walls and pipes, then crawled to their freedom through tunnels, popping out of a manhole in a nearby neighborhood. They left behind decoy dummies as well as a note taunting prison officials.
Authorities discovered that their adjoining cells were empty during a morning check at 5:30 a.m. last Saturday, at which point officials immediately locked down the prison and began investigating the men’s disappearance.
“We need to find these escapees,” Cuomo said earlier this week. “They are dangerous men, they are killers. They are murderers. There’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t do it again. They’re going to be more desperate than ever.”
The brazen jailbreak marked the first time anyone had escaped from the maximum-security portion of the institution, which has been open since 1845 and is known as “Little Siberia” because of its isolated location and the region’s harsh winters.
The longest previous escape from a New York prison lasted just three days, according to data from the New York Department of Corrections. In the last decade, freedom lasted less than six hours for 60 percent of the 30 inmates who succeeded in breaking out.
More than 500 leads have been generated since prison officials discovered last Saturday that Matt and Sweat were missing, and Cuomo has announced a $100,000 reward for information that would help investigators capture the inmates.
“I’m confident we will find them,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “The only question is when.”
This post, originally published on June 11, has been updated multiple times. A previous version incorrectly listed Gov. Peter Shumlin’s party affiliation.