NEWS
06/09/2015 13:16 EDT | Updated 06/09/2016 01:12 EDT

Investigators seek accomplices, answers in US prison break near Canadian border

DANNEMORA, N.Y. - As investigators seek accomplices who may have helped two convicted murderers escape a maximum-security prison in New York state, many questions remain about the brash, elaborate breakout near the Canadian border.How could nobody hear prisoners slicing through a steel wall, breaking through brick and cutting their way in and out of a steam pipe — or why did those who heard stay silent? How did the inmates hide the hole, the dirt and dust from work that likely took days to accomplish? Did they have access to inside information to chart their path through the bowels of the prison?As a manhunt for the missing prisoners stretches into a fourth day, there is a deepening unknown —"what the rest of the plan was," said Rick Mathews, the director of the University at Albany's National Center for Security and Preparedness."Where were they going to go, and how were they going to do it?"As investigators questioned prison workers and outside contractors to try to find out who may have supplied power tools used in the escape, law officers questioned drivers and searched trunks at checkpoints near the Clinton Correctional Facility in northern New York state.But authorities said the escaped prisoners, David Sweat and Richard Matt, could be anywhere — perhaps Canada or Mexico.The RCMP said Monday it had no information to indicate the two had crossed into Canada.With authorities warning that the men were desperate and dangerous, some local residents were nervous over the escape from the 3,000-inmate prison in the middle of the small town of Dannemora. But others figured the killers were long gone."We always joke about it. We're so close to the prison — that's the last place that anyone who escaped would want to be," Jessica Lashway said as she waited for the bus with her school-age children a few doors down from the fortress-like prison.Sweat, 34, and Matt, 48, ultimately emerged through a manhole to make their escape, discovered early Saturday, authorities said. They had stuffed their beds with clothes to fool guards making their rounds and left behind a taunting note that read: "Have a nice day."The prisoners surely had help, and the noise must have been heard, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.Cuomo said other inmates claimed they didn't see or hear anything. "They're all heavy sleepers," he said sardonically. State Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, chairman of the Correction Committee, said any inmate who heard drilling wouldn't dare report it."That will get you killed — that's the kind of environment it is," he said.In looking for those who may have aided the escape, Cuomo said investigators were focusing first on civilian employees and contractors who have been doing extensive renovations at the 170-year-old prison — not on guards."I'd be shocked if a correction guard was involved in this, but they definitely had help," the governor said.Corrections officials said an inventory of the prison's tools has so far shown none missing. But contractors typically come in with truckloads of equipment, said Peter Light, a retired guard who now runs a museum inside the prison.A $100,000 reward was posted over the weekend for information leading to the men's capture.The governor noted that Matt had a connection to Mexico: He was convicted of killing a man there while on the lam after being accused of dismembering his Buffalo-area boss in 1997, the crime for which he was serving 25 years to life.___Virtanen reported from Albany. Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Jake Pearson and Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.

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