PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. » Two convicted killers who staged a complicated prison break together and then spent more than two weeks roaming in thick New York woods finally split up when one man decided his companion was slowing him down, going their separate ways a few days before one was shot and the other captured, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Authorities believe David Sweat, 35, and Richard Matt, 49, traveled mostly at night and managed to procure food, a gun and other supplies from hunting camps and seasonal cabins before splitting up about five days ago as they tried to elude a massive manhunt.
Sweat was hospitalized in serious condition after being shot twice in the torso by a trooper and captured Sunday near the Canadian border. Cuomo said Sweat has begun providing information about his audacious escape from the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6 with Richard Matt and their weeks on the lam. Matt was killed by officers on Friday.
Matt had blisters on his feet — searchers found his bloody socks — and Sweat thought the older escape partner was holding him back on their run to the Canadian border.
"Sweat felt that Matt was slowing him down," Cuomo said.
Prosecutors have previously said prison tailor shop employee Joyce Mitchell got close to the men and agreed to be their getaway driver but backed out because she felt guilty. Authorities also have said they discussed killing Mitchell’s husband, matching the newly detailed account provided by Cuomo on the Capitol Pressroom radio program.
"They would kill Mitchell’s husband and then get in the car and drive to Mexico on the theory that Mitchell was in love with one or both of them, and then they would go live happily ever after, which is a fairy tale that I wasn’t read as a child," the governor said. "When Mitchell doesn’t show up, the Mexico plan gets foiled, and then they head north toward Canada."
Matt had previously fled to Mexico after killing and dismembering his former boss in 1997.
Sweat was captured Sunday in town of Constable, about 30 miles northwest of the prison, after Sgt. Jay Cook spotted him while on routine patrol. Cook shot Sweat as he fled toward a stand of trees.
Sweat had a bag containing maps, tools, bug repellent and Pop Tarts when he was shot by Cook. Sweat was unarmed at the time, authorities said.
Sweat was airlifted to Albany Medical Center, where he was upgraded from critical to serious condition after doctors determined overnight that he didn’t need immediate surgery. He is expected to stay at the hospital for a few days while his condition stabilizes, according to hospital officials.
Mitchell and corrections officer Gene Palmer have been charged in connection with the escape. Mitchell pleaded not guilty June 15 to charges including felony promoting prison contraband.
Palmer is charged with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing in a Plattsburgh, New York, court on Monday, clearing the way for potential grand jury action.
Palmer has told investigators he provided Matt and Sweat with tools, paint, frozen hamburger and access to a catwalk electrical box. But he said he never knew of their escape plans.
Sweat had been 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 in western New York.
The prisoners 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 popped out of a manhole outside the prison.
Associated Press writer Michael Hill in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.