Search called off for escaped inmates in Allegany County

FRIENDSHIP, N.Y. (WKBW) - All road blocks along Interstate 86 were reopened and cleared Sunday night, after police descended on Allegany County this weekend.

Hundreds of corrections officers from across New York State, including from the prisons in Attica and Elmira,  joined a multi-law enforcement agency effort in Allegany County to search for the two escaped inmates, David Sweat and Richard Matt.

The search began around 1:16 p.m. on Saturday, when a witness spotted two men fitting the inmates' description along the railroad line that runs along Rt. 20 in the Town of Friendship. The search is now officially over, after law enforcement spent around 32 hours hunting for the escapees.

PHOTOS | Search for the escapees in Allegany County

At a press conference on Sunday, the commander of Troop A for the State Police said the description given by the witness was "in line" with the description of Matt and Sweat and that troopers determined the tip and the witness were credible after the witness was interviewed "at length."

After that, around 300 members of law enforcement moved into the area to set up a perimeter. Helicopters were a constant sight in the air, staying up throughout the night with spotlights lit to help in aerial efforts. Hundreds of officers in Allegany County were using every resource available - ATVs, K-9 officers, heavy equipment, spotlights from the State DOT, and more in the ground search effort.

Roadblocks were set up on I-86 and local roads and every car was checked for Matt and Sweat, who have been on the run since June 6. The area, which is around 350 miles from the prison, is rural, with only a couple thousand people living there. Officers went door-to-door checking houses and cabins in their hunt for the escapees.

Driver Nancy Farris said the search reminded her of the manhunt for Bucky Phillips back in 2006. "I don't think they'd be doing this, with a helicopter overhead if there wasn't something going on. And it just seems so distant, and now it's closer. It's real. I just don't want any troopers killed this time."

It was a rough for residents, who were advised by State Police to stay inside and keep their doors locked and for residents along the New York-Pennsylvania line to remain vigilant.

This is the second search this week for the two escaped inmates in Western New York. Thursday night, law enforcement agencies searched a home in Amherst that belongs to Richard Matt's half-brother. Richard Matt is a City of Tonawanda native.

A bed check at 5:30 a.m. on June 6 at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora revealed Matt and Sweat had escaped.

Matt and Sweat used power tools to cut through steel walls and escape from the maximum-security prison near the Canadian border in "a really elaborate, sophisticated operation" that involved shimmying through a steam pipe.

A woman who worked at the prison in the tailor shop, Joyce Mitchell, was charged with helping the two inmates escaped. Mitchell allegedly provided the pair with tools like hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit. Prosecutors say she planned to be their getaway driver but got cold feet.

Mitchell is being held on charges of first degree promoting prison contraband, a class D felony, and fourth degree criminal facilitation, a class A misdemeanor.

On Friday, a corrections officer was placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation into the escape of two convicted killers.

Richard Matt killed William Rickerson in December 1997 after abducting the 76-year-old food broker from his Niagara County home. Police said Matt had been fired from a warehouse owned by Rickerson a few weeks before the killing.

Parts of Rickerson's body were found in the Niagara River in early 1998. Police issued an arrest warrant for Matt soon afterward, but he had fled to Mexico.

While in Mexico, he killed a man outside a bar in Matamoros. He served nine years in prison before being returned to the U.S. in 2007. Matt was convicted of Rickerson's murder the following year and is serving 25 years to life for three counts of murder, three counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery. He had been at the jail since July 2008.

David Sweat was one of three men arrested after 36-year-old Deputy Kevin Tarsia of the Broome County Sheriff's Office was fatally shot on the Fourth of July in 2002 in the town of Kirkwood, near the New York-Pennsylvania border outside Binghamton.

Police said the men had stolen rifles and handguns from a fireworks store just across the border in Pennsylvania by ramming a pickup truck into the building.

Tarsia later confronted the men in a park in Kirkwood, his hometown. Police said Sweat and another man fatally shot the deputy. Sweat and the accomplice pleaded guilty a year after the killing to first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He had been at the jail since October 2003.

Both men are considered dangerous. Call 911 if you see either. There is a $50,000 reward being offered per inmate for information that leads to their capture. They have been added to the U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted list and an additional $25,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the cpature of either.




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