Ex-prison worker: I played along with murderers’ escape plan
Albany, N.Y. — A former prison worker who helped two murderers escape from a maximum-security lockup said she played along when they talked about their plan but never intended to pick them up in her car.
In the second part of a two-part jailhouse interview aired Friday on NBC’s “Today” show, Joyce Mitchell said she had no doubts Richard Matt and David Sweat would have killed her if she had met them with a vehicle and a shotgun like they asked after they escaped June 6 from Clinton Correctional Facility.
The pair went on the run for three weeks. Matt was killed by a border agent June 26. Sweat was wounded and captured by a state trooper two days later.
Mitchell, 51, has pleaded guilty to providing them with tools for their escape.
In an interview at the Clinton County Jail, Mitchell said she knew she was in “way over my head” when she got involved in the escape. She said she went along with the inmates’ plan that she would be waiting for them when they emerged from a street manhole.
But, she said, “I had no intentions of ever showing up.”
Instead, Mitchell said, she suffered a panic attack the day of the escape and was taken to a hospital by her husband, Lyle, who also worked at the prison. Mitchell said the inmates’ plan included going to the couple’s home after the escape and killing Lyle.
The daring escape brought on a massive manhunt across a rugged swath of woods and swamps west of the prison, with more than 1,000 law enforcement officers participating. Mitchell apologized for the weeks of disruptions it caused law enforcement and people living in the search area.
“I would take it all back if I could, but I can’t,” she said. “But I’m not the monster everybody thinks I am. I’m really not. I’m just somebody that got caught up in something she couldn’t get out of.”
When asked if she had wished that Matt and Sweat would be killed so they wouldn’t rat her out, Mitchell said no. She said she expected them to blame her.
She also acknowledged that she lied to state police the first time they interviewed her.
During the first part of the interview that was aired Monday, Mitchell said that she was suffering from depression in the months before the escape and that Matt and Sweat took advantage of her “weakness” to persuade her to smuggle tools to them.
Officials said the convicts used those tools to cut their way out of their adjacent cells and get into the catwalk between the cell block walls. They used power tools from a tool box left behind by an outside contractor to cut through an underground steam pipe. They crawled through the pipe and reached the street through a manhole.
Mitchell is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28. She faces up to seven years in prison.
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