US manhunt for escaped fugitives might be at an end

  • Reuters, Dannemora, New York
  • Updated: Jun 21, 2015 10:13 IST

Police using dogs and helicopters converged on a town in western New York state on Saturday to investigate a reported sighting of two convicted murderers who escaped a maximum-security prison two weeks ago, police said.

New York state police spokesman Beau Duffy said police set up a perimeter in the area of the town of Friendship, about 280 miles southwest of the Clinton Correctional Facility, where the escaped convicts had been serving sentences for murder.

A witness saw two men walking along a railroad track that runs along a road in Friendship, a community of about 2,000 residents in Allegany County, New York State Police said in a statement.

It could not immediately be confirmed if the two men were the escapees, Duffy added. But police called on people living in the area, which is along the border with Pennsylvania, to be alert.

Authorities said they have deployed special operations teams, officers with dogs and helicopters in the search for the two escapees, Richard Matt and David Sweat.

The US Marshals Service has put Matt and Sweat on its 15 Most Wanted Fugitives List. The manhunt, now in its 14th day, has widened to encompass the entire country. But many believe the escapees remain in the heavily wooded regions of New York's Adirondack Mountains and Vermont's Green Mountains.

CNN on Saturday showed video of police, including one with a rifle, stopping vehicles on a rural road in the area.

The reported sighting of the men came a day after officials said a New York state corrections officer at Clinton Correctional Facility was suspended in connection with the prison escape.

Authorities did not say whether they believed the corrections officer, whose name was not released, would face charges or if the officer was believed to have assisted in the breakout.

Separately, Major Charles Guess of the New York State Police told reporters on Friday that investigators had spent "countless hours" interviewing another prison worker, Joyce Mitchell, who is accused of assisting in the breakout.

Mitchell, 51, a training supervisor in the prison tailor shop who is charged with giving hacksaw blades to the convicted murderers, lost her nerve to drive their getaway car and instead checked into a hospital with a panic attack, authorities said.

The two inmates went through prison cell walls, a steam pipe and a manhole cover to escape, officials said.

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