MALONE, N.Y. » One of two convicted murderers who staged a brazen escape from an upstate maximum-security prison three weeks ago was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent in a wooded area about 30 miles from the prison on Friday, and the other is on the run, authorities said.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who was briefed by the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Marshals Service, said Richard Matt was fatally shot by an agent from Vermont. Officers were trucking in floodlights to where David Sweat was believed to be hiding, not far from where Matt was killed.
Schumer said searchers closed in on the pair after receiving a 911 call from a woman who heard a knock on her door early Friday in Malone, about 30 miles west of the Clinton Correctional Facility.
"She didn’t answer the door, but she called the police," he said. "They brought the dogs, and they got a scent. They followed that scent and put out a lot of troops around the cabin. They came upon him and found him and killed him."
Schumer said at least one of the prisoners was armed. State police said law enforcement spotted Matt on Friday afternoon.
The pair escaped early June 6 from the prison in Dannemora, near the Canadian border. Police blocked off roads in the area as officers hunted for Sweat.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo scheduled a media briefing on the manhunt at 8:30 p.m. in Malone.
Mitch Johnson said one of his best friends checked on his hunting cabin in Malone on Friday afternoon and noticed a liquor bottle that hadn’t been there the day before. Johnson said his friend, correction officer Bob Willett, told him he immediately alerted police, about an hour before Matt was fatally shot.
Authorities sent a team to the camp area, and Willett and police later heard a gunshot in the woods, Johnson said.
Officers then flooded the woods, and then Willett heard more shots, Johnson said.
"He heard: ‘Pop pop pop pop pop pop pop,’" Johnson said.
State Police Maj. Charles Guess said earlier Friday that the search area had shifted slightly northwest to Malone after investigators found evidence left behind by the escapees. Items were found Thursday at a cabin and Friday morning in a field, both in Malone, he said.
Matt and Sweat used power tools to saw through a steel cell wall and several steel steam pipes, bashed a hole through a 2-foot-thick brick wall, squirmed through pipes and emerged from a manhole outside the prison.
Sweat was serving a sentence of life without parole in the killing of a sheriff’s deputy in Broome County in 2002. Matt was serving 25 years to life for the killing and dismembering of his former boss. They were added to the U.S. Marshals Service’s 15 Most Wanted fugitives list two weeks after getting away.
The search for the escapees was initially concentrated around the prison and a rural community where search dogs had caught the scent of both men. The search had since been expanded to neighboring counties, and, while authorities said there was no evidence the men had gotten out of the general area, they conceded they could have been almost anywhere.
Vermont authorities became involved in the search early on after investigators got a tip that the inmates had talked about going there.
A pair of prison workers has been charged in connection with the inmates’ escape.
Prosecutors said Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who got close to the men while working with them, had agreed to be their getaway driver but backed out because she felt guilty for participating. Authorities also said Mitchell had discussed killing her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as part of the plot.
Joyce Mitchell pleaded not guilty June 15 to charges including felony promoting prison contraband, which authorities said included hacksaw blades and chisels.
Authorities said the men had filled their beds in their adjacent cells with clothes to make it appear they were sleeping when guards made overnight rounds. On a cut steam pipe, the prisoners left a taunting note containing a crude caricature of an Asian face and the words "Have a nice day."
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said the inmates apparently used tools stored by prison contractors, taking care to return them to their toolboxes after each night’s work.
On June 24, authorities charged Clinton correction officer Gene Palmer with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct. Officials said he gave the two prisoners the frozen hamburger meat Joyce Mitchell had used to hide the tools she smuggled to Sweat and Matt. Palmer’s attorney said he had no knowledge that the meat contained hacksaw blades, a bit and a screwdriver.
The escape was the first from Clinton Correctional’s maximum-security portion. In July 2003, two convicted murderers used tools from a carpentry shop at Elmira Correctional Facility to dig a hole in the roof of their cell and a rope of bedsheets to go over the wall. They were captured within three days.
Virtanen contributed to this report from Albany. Associated Press writers Jake Pearson and Larry Neumeister contributed to this report from New York.