Prison worker arrested, accused of aiding 2 NY escapees

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Search For Escaped Inmates Continues As Prison Worker Is Arrested

DANNEMORA, N.Y. (AP) -- A worker at an upstate New York maximum-security prison has been arrested on charges she helped two convicted killers escape, state police said Friday.

Fifty-one-year-old Joyce Mitchell was arrested and will be arraigned on the felony charge of first-degree promoting prison contraband and misdemeanor count of fourth-degree criminal facilitation, authorities said.

Mitchell is accused of befriending inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora and giving them contraband.

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Convicted felons escape NY prison - Manhunt photos - updated 6/28
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Prison worker arrested, accused of aiding 2 NY escapees
DUANE, NY - JUNE 28: Correction officers line up for food and beverages at the Duane Fire Department as they take a break after searching a wooded area in the rain for convicted murderer David Sweat on June 28, 2015 near Duane, New York. On Friday Richard Matt, who escaped with Sweat, was shot and killed in the same area. More than 1,000 State Police, Border Patrol, correction officers, FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been searching for the pair since they were discovered missing from a prison in nearby Dannemora on June 6. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DUANE, NY - JUNE 28: FBI agents cunduct a search for convicted murderer David Sweat on June 28, 2015 near Duane, New York. On Friday Richard Matt, who escaped with Sweat, was shot and killed in the same area. More than 1,000 State Police, Border Patrol, correction officers, FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been searching for the pair since they were discovered missing from a prison in nearby Dannemora on June 6. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHASM FALLS, NY - JUNE 26: Law enforcement personnel prepare to head out on a search for convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat continues on June 26, 2015 in Chasm Falls, New York. Matt and Sweat were discovered missing from a prison in nearby Dannemora on June 6. DNA from the two was reportedly found recently in a remote hunting cabin about 15 miles west of the prison. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
New York State Police officer Maj. Charles Guess holds a press conference to brief the media on the status of the manhunt for convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat on June 26, 2015 in Malone, New York. Matt and Sweat were discovered missing from a prison in nearby Dannemora on June 6. Police believe the fugitives are travelling through wooded areas at night, working their way north toward Canada. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHASM FALLS, NY - JUNE 26: Correction officers search around a home as the manhunt for convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat continues on June 26, 2015 in Chasm Falls, New York. Matt and Sweat were discovered missing from a prison in nearby Dannemora on June 6. DNA from the two was reportedly found recently in a remote hunting cabin about 15 miles west of the prison. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHASM FALLS, NY - JUNE 26: Correction officers search around a home as the manhunt for convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat continues on June 26, 2015 in Chasm Falls, New York. Matt and Sweat were discovered missing from a prison in nearby Dannemora on June 6. DNA from the two was reportedly found recently in a remote hunting cabin about 15 miles west of the prison. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 18: A home is seen near Clinton Correctional Facility on June 18, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. Two convicted murderers were found missing from the prison on June 6, a manhunt across approximately 10,000 acres has been taking place since then. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 18: An abandoned building is seen near Clinton Correctional Facility on June 18, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. Two convicted murderers were found missing from the prison on June 6, a manhunt across approximately 10,000 acres has been taking place since then. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 17: A section of land, previously closed due to an ongoing manhunt for two escaped convicts, is seen after officials decided to change strategies and reopen the restricted area, on June 17, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. After conducting a manhunt across approximately 10,000 acres for two escaped convicts who were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, officials announced roads would be reopened and that road blocks would be closed on major routes going into Dannemora, where the prison is located. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 17: Jacob Fountain, age 10, holds on to a blue ribbon, which represents support for law enforcement, while waiting for police officers to drive by, on June 17, 2015 in Dannemora, New York. After conducting a manhunt across approximately 10,000 acres for two escaped convicts who were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, officials announced roads would be reopened and that road blocks would be closed on major routes going into Dannemora, where the prison is located. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
PLATTSBURGH, NY - JUNE 17: Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie speaks at a press conference on June 17, 2015 in Plattsburgh, New York. After conducting a man hunt for two escaped convicts who were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, officials announced the end of road blocks on major routes going into Dannemora, where the prison is located. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
PLATTSBURGH, NY - JUNE 17: Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie speaks at a press conference on June 17, 2015 in Plattsburgh, New York. After conducting a man hunt for two escaped convicts who were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, officials announced the end of road blocks on major routes going into Dannemora, where the prison is located. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 16: A task force of U.S. Marshalls and police officers go door to door searching for two escaped convicts on June 16, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. The two convicted killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on the morning of June 6 and law enforcement are on a multi-state manhunt for their capture. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 16: A task force of U.S. Marshalls and police officers go door to door searching for two escaped convicts on June 16, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. The two convicted killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on the morning of June 6 and law enforcement are on a multi-state manhunt for their capture. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 15: A helicopter searches for two escaped convicts on June 15, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. The two convicted murderers escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility during the early morning hours of June 6; officials have been conducting a manhunt for the two since. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 15: New York State Troopers check civilian cars at a check point on June 15, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. Two convicted murderers escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility during the early morning hours of June 6; officials have been conducting a manhunt for the two since. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 16: A task force of U.S. Marshalls and police officers go door to door searching for two escaped convicts on June 16, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. The two convicted killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on the morning of June 6 and law enforcement are on a multi-state manhunt for their capture. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 16: Police officers check automobiles for two escaped convicts at a mandatory check point June 16, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. A manhunt has been underway since the two convicted killers were found missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on the morning of June 6. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 16: A task force of U.S. Marshalls and police officers go door to door searching for two escaped convicts on June 16, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. The two convicted killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on the morning of June 6 and law enforcement are on a multi-state manhunt for their capture. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 16: A task force of U.S. Marshalls and police officers go door to door searching for two escaped convicts on June 16, 2015 outside Dannemora, New York. The two convicted killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were found missing from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York on the morning of June 6 and law enforcement are on a multi-state manhunt for their capture. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
CADYVILLE, NY - JUNE 13: Law enforcement personnel search an area in Cadyville, New York June 13, 2015. Officials announced the arrest yesterday of Joyce Mitchell as they continued their search for two prisoners who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correction Facility one week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
SARANAC, NY - JUNE 13: Department of Corrections officers work a roadblock on June 13, 2015 in Saranac, New York. Law enforcement announced the arrest yesterday of prison worker Joyce Mitchell as they continued their search for the two prisoners, David Sweat and Richard Matt, who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correction Facility nearly a week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
DANNEMORA, NY - JUNE 13: A manhole used by two prisoners who escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility on June 13, 2015 in Dannemora, New York. Law enforcement announced the arrest of Joyce Mitchell as they continued their search for two prisoners, David Sweat and Richard Matt, who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correctional Facility nearly a week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
CADYVILLE, NY - JUNE 13: Law enforcement personnel search an area June 13, 2015 in Cadyville, New York. Officials announced the arrest of Joyce Mitchell as they continued their search for two prisoners, David Sweat and Richard Matt, who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correctional Facility nearly a week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
SARAN, NY - JUNE 14: Law enforcement personnel search an area June 14, 2015 in Saranac, New York. Officials announced the arrest yesterday of Joyce Mitchell, who is accused of helping Richard Matt and David Sweat escape, as they continued their search for two prisoners who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correction Facility one week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
SARANAC, NY - JUNE 13: Department of Corrections officers work a roadblock on June 13, 2015 in Saranac, New York. Law enforcement announced the arrest yesterday of prison worker Joyce Mitchell as they continued their search for the two prisoners, David Sweat and Richard Matt, who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correction Facility nearly a week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
WEST PLATTSBURGH, NY - JUNE 14: A law enforcement officer works a checkpoint June 14, 2015 in West Plattsburgh, New York. Officials announced the arrest of Joyce Mitchell, who is accused of helping Richard Matt and David Sweat escape, June 13, as they continued their search for two prisoners who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correction Facility one week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
CADYVILLE, NY - JUNE 13: Law enforcement personnel search an area June 13, 2015 in Cadyville, New York. Officials announced the arrest of Joyce Mitchell as they continued their search for two prisoners, David Sweat and Richard Matt, who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correctional Facility nearly a week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
WEST PLATTSBURGH, NY - JUNE 14: A law enforcement officer works a checkpoint June 14, 2015 in West Plattsburgh, New York. Officials announced the arrest of Joyce Mitchell, who is accused of helping Richard Matt and David Sweat escape, June 13, as they continued their search for two prisoners who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correction Facility one week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
CADYVILLE, NY - JUNE 13: Law enforcement personnel search an area June 13, 2015 in Cadyville, New York. Officials announced the arrest of Joyce Mitchell as they continued their search for two prisoners, David Sweat and Richard Matt, who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correctional Facility nearly a week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
SARAN, NY - JUNE 14: Law enforcement personnel search an area June 14, 2015 in Saranac, New York. Officials announced the arrest yesterday of Joyce Mitchell, who is accused of helping Richard Matt and David Sweat escape, as they continued their search for two prisoners who escaped the maximum security section of the Clinton Correction Facility one week ago. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
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District Attorney Andrew Wylie said earlier the contraband didn't include power tools used by the men as they cut holes in their cell walls and a steam pipe to escape through a manhole last weekend.

Wylie would not elaborate on the charges Friday as more than 800 law enforcement officers continued to search for the escapees, concentrating in a rural area around the prison in the Adirondacks near the Canadian border. Earlier residents reported seeing two men jumping a stone wall outside Dannemora.

"We're coming for you, and we will not stop until you are caught," state police Maj. Charles Guess said in addressing the escapees as he headed a news conference after Mitchell's arrest.

Guess said officers were getting closer with every step they take on the ground and in the investigation. Though searchers were contending with bad weather so were Sweat and Matt, the major said.

"They've got to be cold, wet, tired and hungry" if they haven't escaped the area or found shelter, Guess said.

Mitchell's family has said she wouldn't have helped the convicts break out.

An instructor in the tailor shop where the men worked, Mitchell is also suspected of agreeing to be a getaway driver but didn't show up, leaving the men on foot early Saturday morning.

Mitchell has a job with a yearly salary of $57,697, overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines at the prison. Amid the criminal case, she was suspended without pay.

Within the past year, officials looked into whether Mitchell had improper ties to the 34-year-old Sweat, who was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff's deputy, Wylie said. He gave no details on the nature of the suspected relationship.

The investigation didn't turn up anything solid enough to warrant disciplinary charges against her, the district attorney said.

Matt was serving 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of Matt's 76-year-old former boss, whose body was found in pieces in a river.

The state corrections department would not comment on the investigation into how the two inmates escaped or what Mitchell might have provided them. Prison contraband can include such things as cellphones, weapons, drugs, tools and unauthorized clothing.

On Thursday, a person close to the investigation said Mitchell had befriended the two men and agreed to be the getaway driver but never showed up. The person was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A former slipper-factory employee who won three terms as tax collector in her town near Dannemora, Mitchell has worked at the prison for at least five years, according to a neighbor, Sharon Currier. Mitchell's husband, Lyle, also works in industrial training there.

"She's a good, good person," Currier said. "She's not somebody who's off the wall."

The garment shop is intended to give prisoners job skills and work habits. In general, an inmate assigned to such a job might work several hours a day there, five days a week, meaning he would have significant contact with supervisors.

Mitchell's union, Civil Service Employees Association Local 1000, would not comment Friday on the investigation of Mitchell or the current allegations.

But her daughter-in-law, Paige Mitchell, said this week that her mother-in-law never mentioned Sweat, Matt or any other inmates she encountered. "She doesn't get too involved," Paige Mitchell told the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh.

And Mitchell's son Tobey told NBC that she would not have helped the inmates escape and that she checked herself into a hospital with chest pains on Saturday, the day the breakout was discovered.

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This story has been corrected to show Joyce Mitchell's yearly salary is $57,697, not $56,000.

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Klepper reported from Albany. Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz in New York and Chris Carola and Michael Virtanen in Albany contributed to this report.

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