In a sensational “Shawshank Redemption”-style prison break, a pair of cunning convicted murderers used power tools and tunnels to escape an upstate maximum-security penitentiary near the Canadian border.
A massive manhunt was underway Saturday after killers Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, were discovered missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, about 25 miles from Canada, officials said.
The inmates made their extraordinary dash to freedom after faking out guards with makeshift dummies made out of hooded sweatshirts to appear as if they were still sleeping inside their cells. And once officials discovered they were gone, they found a note from convicts telling them to "Have a nice day!"
“It was an elaborate plot,” Gov. Cuomo said after joining law enforcement authorities inside the prison, retracing the prisoners’ route.
“These are dangerous people,” he said. “They are nothing to be trifled with.
”Matt and Sweat were last seen in their adjoining cells at 10:30 p.m. Friday, officials said.
The inmates, stealing from the film “Escape from Alcatraz,” set up decoys in their cells, tricking the nighttime guards who run checks every two hours.
It wasn’t until a 5:30 a.m. bed check that guards finally realized Matt and Sweat were missing, said Anthony Annuci, the acting
state corrections commissioner.
Officials quickly went to work to figure out how the men managed to sneak out of the prison. The scope of the escape plot revealed itself to be breathtaking.
Wielding power tools, the inmates broke through the cells’ thick walls.
They then scaled a 6-foot-high catwalk and navigated an elaborate maze of pipes into tunnels, cutting away at several spots.
They finally emerged outside the prison’s 30-foot walls after climbing out of a manhole, officials said.
“We went back and pieced together what they did,” Cuomo said. “It was elaborate. It was sophisticated. It encompassed drilling through steel walls and pipes, so this was not easily accomplished.”
“When you look at how the operation was done,” the governor said,“ it was extraordinary.”
Hours after the two cells were found empty, officials were still grappling to understand how the two men pulled it off. The pair didn't leave any clues in a yellow note they left wishing authorities a nice day on one of the prison's pipes.
“We want to find out exactly how it happened,” Cuomo said. “How did they get the power tools? From who? How?”
“We will undertake a full investigation to make sure that this was the first and the last time anyone escapes from this facility,” the governor added.
Annucci said prison authorities are checking to see if any power tools were missing from contractors at the facility.
Investigators were baffled at how the inmates developed such an intimate knowledge of the prison’s hidden infrastructure.
“It may have been over a period of time,” Annucci said. “It may have been trial and error. We don’t know.”
Sweat was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Broome County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Tarsia, 36, in 2002. He was sentenced to life without parole.
PreviousNext EnlargeGOOGLEClinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY.Matt, a career criminal who fled to Mexico after kidnapping and killing a man in Tonowanda in 1997, was serving 25 years to life.
Gov. Cuomo was shown Saturday how two convicted murderers escaped the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
The prison, built in 1845, is the state’s largest with a population of 2,689 inmates, officials said.
More than 200 officers from multiple agencies were searching for the escaped killers, said Maj. Charles Guess of the state police.
The manhunt included bloodhounds, aerial surveillance and searches of adjoining woods.
Roadblocks with heavily armed troopers were set up in the area, WIRY-AM reported.
Sweat is a 5-foot-11 and white, with brown hair and green eyes who weighs 165 pounds, police said.
He has tattoos on his left bicep and his right fingers.
Matt is a 6-foot white 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.
Residents in the village of Dannemora, population 1,700, were on edge Saturday afternoon.
“A lot of people are staying in their house and locking their doors,” Mayor Michael Bennett told the New York Times.