Joyce Mitchell plays central role in prison escape

CLINTON COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB)- At the center of the Richard Matt’s and David Sweat’s escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora is former employee Joyce Mitchell. She’s accused of helping Matt and Sweat break out.

The 51-year old Mitchell is described by friends and family as quick to laugh and loyal to her family. Neighbors say Mitchell is so trusted, she was elected as Dickenson Center tax collector three times.

I believe they were getting it on in that back room – Erik Jensen, a former inmate, on Mitchell and Sweat’s relationship

Overnight her reputation changed dramatically, after Matt and Sweat escaped from prison. Mitchell checked into the hospital only hours after the prisoners are discovered missing. Her son told the media she was experiencing chest pains.

FULL COVERAGE | See all the #BreakOutNY stories

“Obviously, she was befriended or she befriended the inmates and may have had some sort of role in assisting them,” said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico.

Mitchell was an instructor at the tailor shop where Matt and Sweat both worked. A former inmate said she and Sweat were unusually close.

“I believe they were getting it on,” said Erik Jensen, a former inmate.

Mitchell’s Facebook profile picture, however, is of a happy-looking family. She and her husband have been married for 14 years and he also worked at the prison.

New York State Police arrested Mitchell on June 12, within a week of the escape, for giving the men hacksaw blades and drill bits.

The lawyer for another prison employee, Gene Palmer, said Mitchell convinced Palmer to sneak the tools into the facility by putting them in frozen meat. Palmer was arrested on June 24.

“He was conned by Joyce Mitchell, she duped him,” said Andrew Brockway, an attorney for Gene Palmer.

Then, investigators say Mitchell was duped herself. “They were able to convince her to assist them in the escape,” said District Attorney Andrew Wylie. “A date, go time, was established and then she was probably supposed to pick them up.”

Mitchell had a change of heart before that happened.

“I think she saw the light and realized ‘What am I doing?’, so she didn’t show up,” said Wylie.

The investigation revealed Matt and Sweat threatened to kill Mitchell’s husband.

The question of why Mitchell helped these known killers still remains. “I think she had an affinity for them and they asked her to do things and she did, and she conned people into doing it for her,” said Brockway.

Mitchell’s lawyer did not return News 4’s calls.

News 4 filed a Freedom of Information Act to get Mitchell’s employee file from the NYS Department of Corrections to get a glimpse at her past, the file has not yet been released.

Mitchell was the first of more than a dozen prison employees placed on administrative leave as the investigation unfolded.

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