Search for escaped New York killers focuses on areas 300 miles apart – Fox News

The search for two convicted murderers who broke out of an upstate New York maximum security prison more than two weeks ago focused on two separate locations hundreds of miles apart Sunday. 

The Albany Times-Union reported that forensic evidence had been discovered indicating that either Richard Matt and David Sweat had recently been in an area 20 miles west of the Clinton County Correctional Facility in Dannemora, from where the two men were reported missing June 6.

The paper, citing a person familiar with the investigation, reported that the evidence suggest that at least one of the men had broken into a home in the area of Owls Head, east of the Titusville Mountain State Forest. WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vt. reported that investigators had found DNA from one of the inmates in a cabin that had been broken into near the town of Saranac. The station also reported that a Vermont State Police tactical team had been mobilized to help track the men down. 

Earlier Sunday, about 300 law enforcement officers searched the neighboring towns of Amity and Friendship near the Pennsylvania border, where two men who resembled the convicts were spotted Saturday near a railroad line that runs along a county road.

“We will search under every rock, behind every tree and structure until we are confident that that area is secure,” State Police Maj. Michael J. Cerretto said at a news conference Sunday.

Concentrating in the area along County Route 20 and Interstate 86, officers walked railroad tracks, checked car trunks and deployed search dogs as a helicopter flew back and forth overhead. At one point, state police outfitted in camouflage could be seen heading into some woods.

But the state police added in a release Sunday evening that “a primary focus of the search” is still the area around far northern Dannemora, where Sweat and Matt used power tools to break out of prison.

If the two escapees are still together, that’s not surprising, experts told the Associated Press.

In the wilderness, fugitives often stick together for survival’s sake, unless they have pre-planned to split up and reunite at a camp or other hideaway, said Patrick Patten, who trains law enforcers on woodland tracking.

That can be true in urban settings, too. Five of seven inmates who broke out of a Texas prison in December 2000 were staying in the same Colorado motor home when authorities caught up with them about six weeks later; the other two were captured together days later in a nearby hotel.

While escapees may risk drawing more attention than they would alone, they may not separate partly out of concern that one will blunder, get caught and give up the other or others, said Terry Pelz, a former Texas prison warden who now teaches criminal justice at the University of Houston Downtown.

Also, “they probably have an understanding that they’re better off together” because they can help each other, such as by trading off lookout duty, he said.

Until Saturday, the search for Matt and Sweat was concentrated in a several-mile radius around the prison in the Adirondacks. After a woman called in Saturday’s possible sighting in Friendship, police interviewed the witness at length and decided she was credible and the tip bore investigating, Cerretto said.

Authorities also said Friday that two men fitting the descriptions of Sweat and Matt had been seen a week ago in Steuben County, east of Allegany County. Two men were seen walking near a rail yard in Erwin on June 13, and then spotted the next day in Lindley, heading toward the Pennsylvania border.

Investigators also have conducted interviews in both communities and sent surveillance video to Albany for further analysis. Cerretto on Sunday wouldn’t say whether there had been any further reports of sightings.

Two railroads in the area, the Western New York & Pennsylvania and the Norfolk Southern, referred inquiries Sunday to the state police. Another, the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad, hadn’t been contacted by authorities but had advised its employees to be extra-vigilant in looking for anything out of the ordinary, general manager J.L. Pope said.

State police asked residents who live around Friendship to be on alert, warning that the escapees are “very dangerous” and should not be approached.

Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy. Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnapping, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Prison worker Joyce Mitchell remained in custody on charges she helped the two men escape by providing them hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She has pleaded not guilty.

Officials said a corrections officer also has been placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation into the men’s escape. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Sunday that the catwalks and tunnels through which the inmates escaped had not been inspected in years and no guards were in two of the prison’s 35-foot watchtowers on the night that the men escaped. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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