tv CNN Special Report CNN June 23, 2015 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT
father's day. combs was released later that night and scheduled to be in court on the 13th. >> that does it for us, another edition of "ac360," the cnn special report "the great prison escape" starts now. the following is a cnn special report. >> a brazen escape. >> there was a hole cut out of the back of the cell. >> from which these inmates escaped. >> two convicted killers cutting their way to freedom, emerging from a manhole outside the prison walls. >> we estimate they climbed down and had power tools and were able to get outside this facility. >> two dangerous murderers, now free. >> they kill anybody they feel like killing any time. >> how did they get the power tools? who helped them and where are they now? >> we're leaving no stone unt n
unturn unturned. >> a scent in the woods, all sightings, all part of the desperate search in the adirondacks, from the canadian border from the ground and air. >> it is easy to get lost up in there. >> is law enforcement closing in? hello, i'm randy kaye, in new york, from the collinton correctional facility, it's the first time anybody escaped from this facility since it opened back in the mid-1800s. that bold escape was just the beginning of a story that is almost too twisted to believe, involving murder, manipulation and sex. before the sun even began to rise over the small town of dannemora, new york, they were gone. an escape plan worthy of a
screen play carried out by two very dangerous men. >> on a scale of one to ten, they're a ten, dangerous, wild animal. >> prisoners, richard matt and david sweat, had joining cells here at the facility. the two were last seen around 10:30 p.m., during a search, where matt and sweat showed themselves standing inside their cells. but just hours later, a shocks discovery. it would leave prison guards shaking their heads, law enforcement on high alert. and this small upstate new york community terrified. >> this is a very elaborate plan. but we are only at the very preliminary stages of determining exactly what happened. >> reporter: what happened would take time to piece together. all authorities knew at this point was that at 5:30 a.m. on
saturday june 6th, routine bed checking turned up only lumps of clothing underneath the sheets. the two prisoners were missing. >> they were not actual dummies, but they had clothing on, and they looked like people sleeping in the bunks with a sweat shirt hoodie on. >> reporter: how could they have disappeared? after all, this is a maximum security prison. there are visual bed checks every two hours throughout the night. and guard towers high above the prison walls. but as authorities began to take a closer look details soon emerged of a stunning escape. not over the prison wall, but underneath it. >> search revealed there was a hole cut out of the back of the cell, through which these inmates escaped. >> a hole in the back of the cell. this is what it looked like. the men cut their way right
through the cell wall and steel that was a quarter inch thick. the escapees then negotiated a maze of underground tunnels and pipes. the prisoners first got their feel of freedom here by the tape. it was the closest we were allowed to get to it. it was pretty bold, because right there is a health club surrounded by homes in this quiet neighborhood. so anyone who might have been outside and might have seen them could have quickly called police. the manhole is just a block and a half from the prison. where new york governor andrew cuomo retraced their steps hours after their disappeared. pictures from the governor's tour of the prison are proof of the elaborate escape. here is how they figured matt and sweat slipped out. once they slipped out of their
cell it's believed they moved across the cat walk, eventually dropping down into a series of tunnels. from there they broke into a double brick wall, then incredibly cut through a steam pipe, working their way through it. about a block away from the prison by then, they cut yet another hole. this time to get out of the pipe. after that they cut right through the chain and lock holding down the manhole cover. >> if there was a rabid tiger running around the neighborhood or a rabid lion or somebody that could kill anybody, these guys are those animals. these two guys are those kind of animals, like rabid animals that could kill anybody at the drop of the hat. >> reporter: a closer look reveals the men were using a type of grate to conceal the hole they were cutting in their cell. the investigation reveals they likely used a hacksaw to conceal
the noise, and numerous paint jobs only appeared to disguise the hole. >> the new york and state and local federal enforcement partners are conducting a full investigation into the escape of these two inmates. >> reporter: the escapees left a message for those coming for them. this yellow post-it note was found on one of the pipes they cut through. dripping with sarcasm, it reads, have a nice day. >> sure they were. they knew they were not watching when they got out. >> a number of s.w.a.t. units and k-9 to include bloodhounds, even three aerial support aircraft, two helicopters and one from homeland security have been here since this event occurred this morning. >> reporter: the urgency was clear. 35-year-old david sweat and 48-year-old richard matt had killed before. sweat was serving a life sentence without parole for
killing a sheriff's deputy in 2002. matt had been convicted of three counts of murder, three counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery. he kidnapped his former boss, william rickerson in 1997. after torturing him for about 24 hours he killed and dismembered him. matt was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. lee bates served time after acting as richard's accomplice in 1997. he testified against him and in a phone interview with anderson cooper called matt evil. >> if you wanted to take a picture of the devil that is the face that you would see. >> bates remembers shoving a knife sharpener in his victim's ear and breaking his fingers before killing him. >> i have seen him kill. he did kill mr. reckerson, his
old boss, in my presence. in a fit of rage, he reached into the car, grabbed mr. rickerson, grabbed him by his neck and snapped it in front of me. >> he had broken out of an erie county jail before, only to be sentenced to prison in new york on charges of escape and forgery. >> he is a master manipulator that knows the prison system, that knows the streets. street smarts. and is a very cunning and dangerous individual. certainly, he planned that just as well as he did back many years ago when he escaped from the prison up here near buffalo. >> what may have made the escape somewhat easier this time around is the fact that richard matt and david sweat were housed in what is called the honor block at clinton correctional
facility. a prison block reserved for inmates who have gone for years without significant discipline problems. the honor block has its privileges, like hot plates and prison cells. here, prisoners are allowed to mingle with fellow prisoners, which may have given them time to plot their escape. prisoners housed there are also allowed to wear traditional clothing, instead of the traditional prison garb, which also may have allowed them to blend easier once on the outside. their good behavior allowed the two jobs in the prison tailor shop. could that be where they accessed the power tools needed to cut their way to freedom? >> it was truly extraordinary and unusual and almost impossible to duplicate. but we want to find out exactly what happened. and one of the big questions is, where did the tools come from.
>> to answer that question, investigators begin to zero in on tailor shop one, where the escapees worked alongside a prison seamstress named joyce mitchell. and the more they look into joyce mitchell, the plot starts to unravel, complete with sex, betrayal and a plan to murder. '. human sardines packing into tiny frames. carrying around sticks like cavepeople. trying anything to fit in everything. you can keep struggling to get everyone in your shot. or, you can change the way you take selfies. the samsung galaxy s6 and s6 edge, with a wide-angle and high-res selfie camera. advil is not only strong
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51 years old, she is a wife and mother married to the same man for 14 years. but joyce mitchell has secrets. secrets that have landed her in jail. accused of helping two dangerous felons break free. >> i did many escapees on "america's most wanted" that would have never gotten out if it was not for the woman who helped them. >> in this case, joyce mitchell is said to be to woman who helped them with their plan. just how did this wife and mother become involved with two convicted murderers? it started with david sweat. in 2013, sweat was working in the prison tailor shop when he met and befriended mitchell, the seamstress there. they formed a relationship so close it caught the notice of others at the prison. and so they were investigated for having an inappropriate
relationship. >> he was moved out of the tailor block that he was in, put into the second unit. he was then brought back into the tailor unit but not the one that joyce mitchell was in. >> but as sweat moved out, richard matt moved in. matt was known as a lady's man, a charmer, who befriended mitchell and took it perhaps even further than sweat. in 2013, the two started a sexual relationship according to a source close to the investigation. they would meet and have sex in the tailor shop when no one else was around. all this time, joyce mitchell kept this from her husband, lyle, according to his attorney, even though he also worked in the prison tailor shop and knew both richard matt and david sweat. >> joyce has established a partner to deceive. >> reporter: the former profiler said that inmates can be like predators, on the lookout for vulnerable prey, which are also
women working in the prison. >> it starts small, asking her to bring in a candy bar, or stamp, or words such as if only i had met a woman like you i wouldn't have been in the prison system. so she is very gullible. >> reporter: joyce told investigators richard matt made her feel special. and other reports say it could have been love. but was she in so deep she was willing to risk love for it? >> i don't know why anybody is surprised. i think everybody knows that most people low self esteem, women who tried to marry the prison inmates, like charles manson and the hillside
strangler, it never ceases to amaze me how women are seduced by these guys. >> reporter: mitchell was not just risking her marriage, she was risking her freedom. all the while she was having the relationship with matt, investigators say she was also aware of their escape plot, even giving them tools. she smuggled in hacksaws, drill bits and other items and delivered them right into the prisoners' hands. and it did not stop there. authorities say that mitchell admitted she was going to drive the getaway car and even had a time and place to meet the prisoners after they made their great escape. this is where they were supposed to meet, this power plant is just a few 100 yards away from the manhole where the men emerged from. the power plant smoke stack i'm told is visible from the tailor shop at the prison where the two men worked with joyce mitchell. the d.a. says that smoke stack was likely a marker for their
meeting place. >> reporter: but on the day of the planned getaway, she panicked, saying she had chest pains. and instead of picking up her lover and the fellow fugitive, she went to the hospital with her husband, lyle. >> prisoners have all the time in the world. they're con men to begin with. these guys manipulate women. they got to this woman's low self esteem, and they got her which i think is really sad. now they got her, her life is ruined, they're out there running around, they couldn't care less about her. >> reporter: joyce mitchell is arrested on a prison felony, providing contraband and a misdemeanor charge of criminal solicitation. she has pled guilty to both charges. her lawyer says she is distraught. but her story and possible involvement is far from over. lyle mitchell visited his wife in jail after she was taken in and was confronted outside by abc news with a stunning question.
>> what do you make of the report says she was trying to have you killed? >> reporter: that is right, not only was joyce mitchell allegedly having a sexual relationship with a prisoner and potentially helping them plot their escape, authorities say she was also aware of a plan to have her husband, lyle mitchell, killed. >> did you know anything about the escape plan? >> reporter: lyle mitchell has also been questioned by police but was not charged with anything. >> we have no information whatsoever that he had prior knowledge of the escape or that he participated or was involved in the escape of the two inmates. >> reporter: his lawyer says he did not know about any of his wife's activities until he confronted her two days after the escape. that is when she told him the escapees wanted to kill him. lyle was stunned when he heard all the details about the affair and the murder plot. and he feels betrayed by his wife. >> i hate to use a cliche, but you know, love is blind.
>> reporter: lyle mitchell says he will not stand behind her anymore according to his attorney, and remains behind bars. she says she didn't want lyle to be hurt, complying she may have been coerced in helping the inmates. >> the way i understand it, she is still on board with the inmates, they have a plan against lyle, they start to threaten him, saying we're going to have somebody hurt him in the facility. you have to help us out. >> reporter: for a woman of many secrets, some are still unknown. the main one, is she telling investigators everything she knows? or does she have more information on where richard matt and david sweat were heading?
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enforcement going door-to-door, leaving nothing to chance. >> we're leaving no stone earn turned. they could be literally anywhere. >> but where were they? and what did the prison seamstress now accused of aiding in their escape really know? >> what do we know about their plan after they left the prison? >> well, she has been consistent, she has been consistent that it was several hours from this area. and she didn't know whether it was somewhere in pennsylvania, new york, vermont or canada. if we believe her to be telling the truth on that then they were keeping her at bay about what their ultimate plan may have been. >> checkpoints and roadblocks were quickly set up as police searched each vehicle for anything out of the ordinary. imploring the public to be on the lookout. >> they could be holed up at home somewhere. canned food, maybe watching the whole search on television. nice and cool, nice and dry. >> lee bates is a former accomplice of richard matt's. >> they have something in common that says you know, we're out
and when they catch us we're done. and their mindset is probably going to be, they're not going to take us alive. >> alive or not, residents here are on edge. >> the state police have been by here without exaggeration probably 50 times in the last two days. >> have they asked you questions? >> yes, have i seen or heard anything? the answer is no. >> we have broken pieces down here so we don't know if somebody went through here. and you follow the stream, it's a nice way out. >> reporter: this woman was checking her attic and basement every night before bed. >> somebody is going to see something somewhere, somebody is going to give it up. >> reporter: in dannemora, investigators concentrate on a perimeter near the prison. four-wheelers cut paths through rough terrain. the thick brush made it hard to see. so search teams are resorting to other means using motion
detectors similar to this one. they have cameras on them and they can be attached to any tree here in the woods when the sensors pick up activity they snap a photo. law enforcement also on the hunt from the air. you can see what search teams were up against. so many places for the escapees to hide. six million acres of trees and heavy woods. >> it's pretty easy to hide out here. >> reporter: in the distance, another challenge. the canadian border. >> we are looking at the vehicles and individuals, opening trunks. opening back of doors and trucks and things. so it is very extensive. >> reporter: the escapees may be looking for a place like this to cross the border. they certainly would have an easier time. border control can't secure the entire northern border so there are plenty of spots like this one, open areas where you don't need any passports or docume
documention to cross the border. you can put one foot right here or here, and simply walk into canada, no questions asked. closer to the prison, tips were pouring in. in the village, investigators believe they were getting close when a resident thought he spotted the two escapees jumping over a stone wall in the back yard. another alleged sight, two men spotted walking in the middle of the night in the pouring rain. and another possible lead. near the pennsylvania border. and now, possibly the strongest lead yet. another sight. a witness says a man was running franklin county, new york, just 20 miles away from the prison. sources say dna from both men was found inside. could this be the break investigators are looking for? >> no lead is too small for us to investigate. law enforcement is maintaining a
strong and visible presence in this region. >> reporter: but the fugitives are still on the run. >> neither of them are from this area. but that does not discount the fact that they could not have done research or have some collaborations to the location of this cabin or to the region in general. we ask the public to remain on alert, take any necessary safety precautions and remain vigilant about reporting anything, anything. >> these people are in need of money to sustain themselves. they're hunkered down right now. they're somewhere, they're going to have to make a move. and at some point when they feel comfortable they will surface and make a mistake. >> i think that their long established history on both of their parts to use violence, to live their lives, to use violence because they get upset with somebody, that will ultimately get them caught again. >> reporter: how long before they get caught again is anybody's guess. but investigators remain
vigilant, and so does the public, tracking down any lead. anything to return the escapees back here behind bars. until then, richard matt and david sweat will remain on the u.s. marshal's most wanted list, reserved for only the most dangerous criminals. i'm randy kaye, thank you for joining us. the following is a cnn special report. a model family. >> these are people that really loved each other. this was a really good family. >> living a charmed life. >> they were the perfect example of how you live life. >> until the