A female prison worker in custody for helping two upstate New York inmates escape had plotted with the convicts to have her husband killed, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Joyce Mitchell, 51, was arrested last week in connection with the escape of murderers Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 35, who broke out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border, nearly two weeks ago.
Mitchell and the two men, who she has been linked to romantically, planned to kill her husband, Lyle Mitchell, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told reporters.
Police on Wednesday expanded their search for Matt and Sweat and released photos of what they might look like after almost two weeks on the run.
Their expanded search includes the U.S. Marshall’s Service working along the Mexican border. Matt, who has a history of escape attempts, had fled to Mexico before.
Authorities have received more than 1,200 tips from the public as they search for the escapees.
State police reopened Route 374, a main road from the maximum-security prison to Plattsburgh, which had been closed since police sniffer dogs picked up the scent of Matt and Sweat last week. The search was “expanding and shifting to other areas surrounding Dannemora,” police said in a statement.
Police also released “progression photos” showing the men with facial hair they may have grown since they were noticed missing on June 6. They revised details of the men’s physical descriptions, now putting Matt at 5 foot, 10 inches tall and 210 pounds and Sweat at 5 foot, 10 inches tall and 165 pounds.
Mitchell, who met the men in her job training convicts in the prison tailor shop, remained in jail, accused of supplying them with hacksaw blades and a screwdriver bit used in the breakout.
“She’s distraught. She’s very weepy,” her lawyer, Stephen Johnston told reporters.
Her husband, Lyle Mitchell, who also works at the prison, visited her in the county jail on Tuesday and there were conflicting media reports about whether he will stand by her.
“There’s no way I’m standing behind her,” Lyle Mitchell was quoted as saying by his lawyer, Peter Dumas, according to NBC News.
Dumas did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment and CNN quoted Johnston as saying Mitchell vowed to support his wife.
Law enforcement officials said on Wednesday that they had no evidence that Lyle Mitchell had prior knowledge of the escape plan.
Joyce Mitchell has pleaded not guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation. If convicted of the charges, she faces up to eight years in prison.
Mitchell was previously investigated after a co-worker complained she had an inappropriate relationship with Sweat, but that investigation concluded without disciplinary action, although they were ordered separated, authorities said.
Matt and Sweat were discovered missing from their adjoining cells early on the morning of June 6. Their elaborate escape involved cutting through a steel wall and slithering through a steam pipe before emerging from a manhole on the street outside the prison.