An elaborate escape plan, but with mistakes along the way

DANNEMORA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Richard Matt and David Sweat almost pulled their elaborate escape plan off; but they made many mistakes along the way.

Before the news of their escape broke, the two convicted murderers worked behind the scenes, sneaking around the prison and manipulating anyone they could to help them break out. This was the first escape ever at the maximum security prison that held the two men.

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On June 5, the two men practiced their escape plan – a plan that could have been from a movie. They broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility, in the upstate New York town of Dannemora the next day.  The pair had been planning their escape for months.

Their plan unfolded in stages. David Sweat cut a hole through a steel wall at the back of his cell and into Richard Matt’s cell next to his using a hacksaw. The two inmates crawled down a catwalk, broke through a brick wall with a sledgehammer that was reportedly left behind by construction workers, cut their way into and out of a steam pipe and then sliced through the chain and lock on a manhole cover outside the prison walls.

The New York Times reported that Sweat would wait each night until after the 11:30 head count to crawl through the hole he cut in his cell, make his way down pipes going down several stories and roamed tunnels until he found a way out. He would then get back to his bunk before 5:30 a.m. when guards would do another head check. The Times also said that Sweat felt confident the guards would have no idea where he was overnight because they themselves were asleep.

The manhole was just a couple of blocks from the prison. The two crawled out and then took off into the woods once they realized their getaway driver didn’t show up.

State Police got the call around 5:45 a.m. on June 6 that the prisoners were missing.

New York State Governor Cuomo, who retraced the escape route himself, called the plan “extraordinaryE976DD41334549FF8DAB74A90AA1240F.”  He said, “We went through the tunnels, we saw the precision of the operation.”

On June 7, Gov. Cuomo offered a $100,000 reward for the two men. Matt, 49, was born in Tonawanda and went to prison for dismembering his former boss. His son and half-brother still live in western New York.  Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence for killing a Sheriff’s Deputy in 2002.

After the escape, while hundreds of officers across the state conducted one of the largest manhunts in recent memory, authorities began to question prison tailor Joyce Mitchell.  It had become clear that someone had helped the killers obtain tools and escape.

Mitchell was charged on June 12 with helping the men escape. According to authorities she was supposed to be the getaway driver and helped the men get the tools they needed to cut through the walls.

Police were led to where Matt was killed by reports of bullet holes in this camper.

On June 20, the manhunt came to western New York when tips led investigators to the town of Friendship, in Allegany County.  But after 48 hours, no one was found.

After the search in Friendship, on June 22, DNA evidence linked to one of the men was found in a cabin in northern New York that had just been broken into. The cabin was just 20 miles from the prison.

Soon after that, another arrest was made. Officer Gene Palmer was charged with unintentionally taken frozen meat – that Joyce Mitchell allegedly hid tools in – to the inmates’ cell area.

Then, on June 26, Richard Matt was shot and killed. Earlier in the day, investigators were led to the area where he was killed by a report that another cabin had been broken into; an out of place liquor bottle gave Matt away according to authorities.

Sweat told investigators later that he believed Matt to be a liability because he would get drunk every time the pair would find alcohol.

David Sweat was captured on June 28.

Just two days later, on June 28, New York State Police shot and captured David Sweat in the town of Constable, just six miles from where Matt was killed. New York State Police Sergeant Jay Cook was on routine patrol alone when we spotted a man walking down the road. When Cook pulled up to the man and then got out of his patrol car to confront the man, the man fled into a field.  Cook fired shots at the man, who turned out to be Sweat.

Sweat spent time recovering at the Albany Medical Center and now at the maximum-security Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, N.Y. He is on suicide watch in a single small cell with hardly any room to move around.

David Sweat has told investigators the original plan was to flee with Joyce Mitchell, kill her husband Lyle, and then travel to Mexico.

READ NEXT STORY | Remembering the manhunt: Friendship, one month later provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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