Two convicted murderers who escaped a New York maximum security prison near the Canadian border apparently used power tools to cut through the steel pipes and bolted through a manhole, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
Cuomo called the escape “an elaborate plot” after joining law enforcement authorities to retrace the prisoners’ route from the Clinton Correctional Facility in the town of Dannemora in the Adirondacks.
He said Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, are “two dangerous individuals.”
Sweat is serving a life sentence without parole after he was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a Broome County sheriff’s deputy in 2002. Matt is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the kidnapping and beating death of a man in 1997.
The two men’s adjoining cells were empty during a morning check, said Anthony Annuci, the acting state corrections commissioner.
“A search revealed that there was a hole cut out of the back of the cell through which these inmates escaped,” Annucci said. “They went onto a catwalk which is about six stories high.
We estimate they climbed down and had power tools and were able to get out to this facility through tunnels, cutting away at several spots.”
Authorities said there are many questions including how the men acquired the tools. Annuncci said prison authorities are checking to see if any power tools are missing from contractors at the prison.
Maj. Charles E. Guess of the state police said more than 200 officers from multiple agencies were searching for the men. The search included bloodhounds and aerial surveillance, he said.
At an afternoon news conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was the first time in the prison’s 150-year history that inmates have escaped from the maximum-security portion of the complex.
The prison is about 20 miles from the Canadian border. Roadblocks were set up in the area, WIRY-AM reported.
Sweat is a 5-foot-11 white male with brown hair and green eyes, weighing 165 pounds, police said. He has tattoos on his left bicep and his right fingers.
Matt is a 6-foot white male with black hair and hazel eyes, according to police. He weighs 210 pounds and has tattoos including “Mexico Forever” on his back, a heart on his chest and left shoulder and a Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder.
And nearly a decade after the 1997 kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of his former boss, William Rickerson, in upstate New York, Matt was returned to the U.S. from Mexico where he had fled to and been arrested in the stabbing death of another American outside a bar in a robbery attempt. He was convicted in 2008 of Rickerson’s death.