Police widens search for escaped US killers

Tehran's notorious Evin Prison may become public parkHundreds of US police officers Wednesday expanded across state lines an exhaustive search for two “extremely dangerous” killers who escaped from one of New York’s toughest jails five days ago.

The public was warned that Richard Matt, 49, and David Sweat, 35, could kill again after using power tools to cut through walls at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on Saturday.

Authorities said there were clues that the two convicts, who in jail enjoyed special privileges as “model prisoners,” discussed heading to the neighboring state of Vermont before tunneling to freedom.

“We need to find these escapees. They are dangerous men. They are killers, they are murderers. There is no reason to believe they wouldn’t do it again,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

“This is one of the prisons in the state of New York that holds the most difficult inmates, so trust me these men are nothing to be trifled with,” he told reporters outside the prison that opened in 1845.

New York State Police has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to their arrest and warned the public to call 911 immediately if they spot any suspicious activity.

More than 450 police, corrections personnel, forest rangers, the FBI, US Marshals and border officers are involved in the manhunt, investigating more than 500 leads.

Inmates, guards, contract employees and other prison staff have been questioned, including a middle-aged mother who befriended or who was befriended by the convicts, authorities said.

Cuomo said investigators were still working to determine how Matt and Sweat acquired the power tools.

The governor has said he believed they had help — most probably from inside.

“Please call 911 if you should see these inmates,” New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico told reporters.

“Do not try to approach these men, they are extremely dangerous.”

Matt, six feet (1.83 meters) tall with multiple tattoos, was serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnapping and dismembering of his former boss, 76-year-old William Rickerson, in a horrifying 27-hour ordeal.

– Not for lack of trying –

He fled to Mexico after the murder and killed an American, before being sentenced to 20 years and extradited back to New York.

Sweat was serving a life sentence without parole for murdering a sheriff’s deputy in New York state in 2002 when he was 22 years old.

The pair’s escape has been likened to Hollywood movies such as “The Shawshank Redemption” or “Escape from Alcatraz.”

They cut through the walls of their cells with power tools, then crawled to freedom through an underground pipe system, coming up through a manhole and leaving behind a note saying “Have a Nice Day.”

Law enforcement downplayed fears that the killers, who were only discovered missing at 5:30 am on Saturday and who could have escaped as early as 11:00 pm on Friday, may never be caught.

“We’ve had an exhaustive effort. It’s not for lack of trying, but we’re going to redouble our efforts and we’re going to keep looking until we find them,” said Cuomo.

“I am confident we’re going to find them. The only question is when.”

US authorities alerted border officials in Canada and Mexico to be on watch in case the pair fled the country, but have focused their search on the forest, swamps and homes closer to the jail.

Police were searching homes in Dannemora again on Wednesday and the town of Willsboro around 40 miles (60 kilometers) of the jail.

There was a sighting of two individuals who could have fit the description of Matt and Sweat in Willsboro but there has been no confirmation that they were the escapees.

“We don’t know that they’ve left the state or left the area,” said D’Amico.

The police chief said he had “no information on where they are or what they’re doing.”

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