Manhunt for escaped killers shifts after possible sighting

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Richard Matt & David Sweat Added To US Marshals' Most Wanted List

FRIENDSHIP, N.Y. (AP) -- Investigators tracking two murder convicts who escaped from a northern New York prison scoured a rural area near the Pennsylvania border Sunday, saying an unconfirmed but credible report of a sighting had shifted the search across the state.

About 300 law enforcement officers searched the neighboring towns of Amity and Friendship, where two men who resembled the convicts were spotted Saturday near a railroad line that runs along a county road.

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Convicted felons escape NY prison - Manhunt photos - updated 6/28
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Manhunt for escaped killers shifts after possible sighting
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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While state police called the sighting unconfirmed, the intense hunt that had focused for two weeks around a prison near the Canadian border was quickly expanded to a rural, mountainous area 350 miles away, dotted with sheds, trailers, summer homes and other potential hideouts.

"We will search under every rock, behind every tree and structure until we are confident that that area is secure," State Police Maj. Michael J. Cerretto said at a news conference Sunday.

Concentrating in the area along County Route 20 and Interstate 86, officers walked railroad tracks, checked car trunks and deployed search dogs as a helicopter flew back and forth overhead. At one point, state police outfitted in camouflage could be seen heading into some woods.

But the state police added in a release Sunday evening that "a primary focus of the search" is still the area around far northern Dannemora, where David Sweat and Richard Matt used power tools to break out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6.

If the two escapees are still together, that's not surprising, experts said.

In the wilderness, fugitives often stick together for survival's sake, unless they have pre-planned to split up and reunite at a camp or other hideaway, said Patrick Patten, who trains law enforcers on woodland tracking.

That can be true in urban settings, too. Five of seven inmates who broke out of a Texas prison in December 2000 were staying in the same Colorado motor home when authorities caught up with them about six weeks later; the other two were captured together days later in a nearby hotel.

While escapees may risk drawing more attention than they would alone, they may not separate partly out of concern that one will blunder, get caught and give up the other or others, said Terry Pelz, a former Texas prison warden who now teaches criminal justice at the University of Houston Downtown.

Also, "they probably have an understanding that they're better off together" because they can help each other, such as by trading off lookout duty, he said.

Until Saturday, the search for Matt and Sweat was concentrated in a several-mile radius around the prison in the Adirondacks. After a woman called in Saturday's possible sighting in Friendship, police interviewed the witness at length and decided she was credible and the tip bore investigating, Cerretto said.

Authorities also 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 spotted the next day in Lindley, heading toward the Pennsylvania border.

Investigators also have conducted interviews in both communities and sent surveillance video to Albany for further analysis. Cerretto on Sunday wouldn't say whether there had been any further reports of sightings.

Two railroads in the area, the Western New York & Pennsylvania and the Norfolk Southern, referred inquiries Sunday to the state police. Another, the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad, hadn't been contacted by authorities but had advised its employees to be extra-vigilant in looking for anything out of the ordinary, general manager J.L. Pope said.

State police asked residents who live around Friendship to be on alert, warning that the escapees are "very dangerous" and should not be approached.

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 kidnapping, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Prison worker Joyce Mitchell remained in custody 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.

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