Manhunt for escaped prisoners shifts after possible sighting

FILE - At left, in a May 21, 2015, file photo released by the New York State Police is David Sweat. At right, in a May 20, 2015, file photo released by the New York State Police is Richard Matt. New York State Police are investigating a possible sighting of the two convicted killers who escaped from an upstate New York prison two weeks ago. In a news release posted late Friday, June 19, 2015, State Police say two men fitting the description of inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt were seen a week ago in Steuben County, New York, over 300 miles southwest of the prison in Dannemora. (New York State Police via AP, File)

FRIENDSHIP, N.Y. (AP) — Investigators tracking two murder convicts who escaped from a northern New York prison scoured a rural area Sunday near the Pennsylvania border after possible sightings shifted the search across the state.

Officers continued searching an area in Allegany County, in New York’s southern tier, a day after someone reported spotting two men near a railroad line that runs along Route 20 in the town of Friendship, state police spokesman Beau Duffy said.

Police concentrated the search in the area along the route and Interstate 86, some 350 miles from the prison that David Sweat and Richard Matt fled near the Canadian border. The two broke out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on June 6 using power tools and leaving behind dummies under bedcovers in their adjoining cells.

Until Saturday, the search was concentrated in a several-mile radius around the prison in the Adirondacks. Up to 800 law enforcement officers combed woods, went door-to-door and set up roadblocks.

State police moved the search command post from the prison Saturday to nearby Cadyville and focused attention on the other side of the state. They advised the public to report any suspicious activity and asked residents who live in the Friendship area along the New York-Pennsylvania border to be on alert.

The two men are “very dangerous” and should not be approached, state police said. Several roads around Friendship were blocked off, and police used helicopters and search dogs

“I was a little concerned. You have these guys running around. You don’t know where they are,” resident Darryl Ross told The Leader newspaper. “I have a house with a big cellar and a big garage. I cleared the house. I had firearm protection.”

Authorities said Friday that two men fitting the descriptions of Sweat and Matt had been seen a week ago in Steuben County, east of Allegany County. Two men were seen walking near a rail yard in Erwin on June 13, and then seen the next day in Lindley, heading toward the Pennsylvania border.

Investigators conducted interviews in both communities and sent surveillance video to Albany for further analysis.

Railroads in Steuben and Allegany Counties referred inquiries Sunday to the state police.

Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy. Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Prison worker Joyce Mitchell remained in custody Saturday on charges she helped the two men escape by providing them hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She has pleaded not guilty.

Officials said a corrections officer also has been placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation into the men’s escape. The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said no additional information was available.

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