Prison escapee David Sweat spills details of botched plan
MALONE, N.Y. — Had everything gone as planned, prison escapees David Sweat and Richard Matt would have killed the husband of a prison worker before fleeing with her to Mexico, officials said.
Those are some of the details Sweat divulged to investigators from his hospital room in Albany, N.Y., Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“They would kill (tailor Joyce) 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,” Cuomo told “The Capitol Pressroom” radio program. “And then they would go live happily ever after.”
Instead, Sweat is in serious condition after suffering two gunshot wounds during his capture in upstate New York. And Matt is dead after he was shot by police miles away.
The duo’s plan went awry the moment they popped out of a manhole near the Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6 — and discovered that Mitchell, who was supposed to be their getaway driver, didn’t show up, Cuomo said.
And that started a bizarre, improvised 22-day journey that almost ended with the escapees in Canada — not Mexico.
Sweat, 35, and Matt, 49, stuck together for more than two weeks, Cuomo said. But eventually, Matt became a burden to the younger, more athletic fugitive.
“Sweat felt that Matt was slowing him down,” Cuomo said. “Now we know that Matt had blisters on his feet because we found bloody socks. So that’s possibly a reason Matt was slowing him down. And also Sweat was a younger man, and he was fit.”
So about six days ago, Sweat left Matt behind. Police caught up with and killed Matt on Friday in Malone, N.Y., while Sweat made it within two miles of the Canadian border before he was captured Sunday.
Camouflage, maps and Pop-Tarts
For a pair of prison escapees, Matt and Sweat were surprisingly well equipped when they were found.
Both men were wearing camouflage. Matt was dressed in dark brown pants, a dark green jacket, and heavy boots when he was shot, Franklin County Coroner Brian Langdon told CNN.
“He was dressed for the woods,” Langdon said. “He would blend right in if he stood still.”
Matt’s clothing was not torn or ragged, though Langdon recalled an odor of stale blood.
“I thought he was kind of well kept for somebody who’s been living in the woods for 20 some odd days,” Langdon said.
Matt may have stolen clothing or other supplies from a cabin in Mountain View, N.Y., where his DNA was found.
After Matt was killed, authorities could smell alcohol on his body from a few feet away, a law enforcement source briefed on the investigation said.
Evidence suggests Matt had been ill, possibly from contaminated food or water, the source said.
When Sweat was captured, he had a backpack full of supplies, Cuomo told CNN’s “New Day.”
“He had maps, he had a certain amount of tools, he had bug repellent, he had wipes, he had Pop-Tarts,” he said.
It’s not clear whether Sweat acquired those supplies before his escape or if he stole or collected them while on the run.
What’s next for Sweat
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said authorities want to learn how Sweat escaped and survived while on the run. But he seemed to limit the prospect of a plea bargain on escape charges in return for those details.
“There’s certainly no plea bargain that we could put out there,” Wylie told CNN. “The Department of Corrections obviously wants information; they want answers as well relative to how this escape occurred. So on that end, whatever benefit that may be for David Sweat, only the time will tell.”
Jeff Dumas, a retired sergeant at Clinton Correctional Facility, said he thinks Sweat might try to negotiate cooperating with investigators in exchange for less time in solitary confinement.
It’s unlikely Sweat will go back to Clinton Correctional Facility, criminologist Casey Jordan said.
“He would never be safe there,” she said.
A former inmate at the same prison agreed. Louis Ferrante said someone like Sweat would be considered a hero to many prisoners — a convicted cop killer who managed to escape.
“But the fact that he was a rat, ratting out prisoners … they’re going to be spitting on him,” Ferrante said.
The FBI has launched an investigation into possible broader corruption at the Clinton Correctional Facility, law enforcement officials briefed on the probe told CNN on Monday.
The investigation is looking into possible drug trafficking and other criminal behavior among prison employees and inmates, the officials said. Some employees interviewed have told investigators about heroin use among prisoners, and the role of employees in the drug trade.
That’s on top of the investigations into two prison employees in connection with the escape.
Mitchell has admitted to smuggling hacksaw blades by hiding them in frozen hamburger meat, a law enforcement official said last week.
Even months before the escape, the official said, Mitchell used baked goods to win favors for Matt and Sweat — including asking one guard to pass frozen hamburger meat to Matt, bypassing the prison’s metal detector in a violation of policy.
And Gene Palmer, a guard on the honor block where Matt and Sweat were housed, was arrested and charged with promoting dangerous prison contraband, destroying evidence and official misconduct.
He appeared in court Monday and waived any more hearings in Plattsburgh Justice Court. The case will now go to a grand jury in Clinton County Court.
Palmer’s former attorney has said Palmer was unaware of the meat’s contents when he was asked to get it to Matt.