Authorities searching for two escaped killers who have been on the loose for the better part of a week acknowledged being in the dark about their whereabouts, even as the hunt for the men expanded past New York State borders into Vermont.
At a news conference on Wednesday outside the maximum-security prison the men fled from, New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said: “I have no information on where they are or what they’re doing, to be honest with you.”
However, authorities were expanding the search after investigators learned that the inmates had talked before last weekend’s breakout about going to neighboring Vermont.
“We have information that suggests they thought New York was going to be hot. Vermont would be cooler, in terms of law enforcement,” Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said at the news conference along with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
He and other officials would not say how authorities learned that information.
Meanwhile, late on Wednesday night another search was started closer to the prison.
D’Amico also said that a prison employee — identified in news reports as Joyce Mitchell, a training supervisor at the prison tailor shop — had befriended the killers and “may have had some role in assisting them.”
He would not elaborate.
Mitchell’s son, Tobey Mitchell, told NBC television that she checked herself into a hospital with chest pains on Saturday last week. He said she would not have helped the inmates escape.
Using power tools, inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt cut through a steel wall, broke through bricks and crawled through a steam pipe before emerging through a manhole in the street outside the 3,000-inmate Clinton Correctional Facility in far northern New York State, about 30km from the Canadian border.
The breakout was discovered early on Saturday, meaning the inmates might have had a head start of several hours, Cuomo said.
Authorities suspect they had help from inside the prison obtaining the power tools. Unions representing guards and civilian staff members at the prison said that many workers have been questioned by investigators but none have been suspended, disciplined or charged.
Vermont authorities are patrolling Lake Champlain and areas alongside it, Shumlin said.
Cuomo urged the people of Vermont to be on the alert and report anything suspicious, saying “trust me, these men are nothing to be trifled with.”
As part of the search, state troopers and correction officers in helmets and body armor retraced their steps around the prison, checking garage doors, sheds, windows and other structures for signs of a break-in or other clues.
More than 450 federal and state law enforcement officers were taking part in the search, including customs agents, federal marshals and park rangers.
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