NEW YORK – A female prison worker being questioned by police, who are hunting two escapees from an upstate New York prison, thought she had a romantic relationship with one of them and had planned to drive the getaway car, NBC News reported on Thursday.
In the end, Joyce Mitchell, an industrial training supervisor in the tailor shop of Clinton Correctional Facility in the town of Dannemora, got cold feet and checked herself into a hospital for nerves on Saturday, the day the inmates were discovered missing, NBC reported, citing unnamed senior government officials.
The older inmate, convicted killer Richard Matt, 48, who has a history of escape attempts, had wooed Mitchell for months and established a relationship in which she agreed to drive the getaway car, the report said.
“She thought it was love,” one of the officials told NBC News.
Mitchell’s statements to police were incriminating enough to result in her being indicted for her role in the escape, the New York Times reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed person with knowledge of the matter.
Mitchell, who is married to another prison worker and has an adult son, earns a salary of $57,700 for the state corrections department job she has held since 2008, the Buffalo News reported.
Police have declined to comment further on Mitchell, but State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said at a press conference on Wednesday: “She befriended the inmates and may have had some sort of role in assisting them.”
Matt and David Sweat, 34, both convicted of murder, remained on the loose on Thursday, after escaping from the maximum-security prison through underground pipes and a manhole.
More than 450 state, federal and local law enforcement officers are now in their sixth day of a manhunt for the prison escapees, which has spread to Vermont and includes possible sightings as far away as Philadelphia.
In the Dannemora area, where a stretch of highway just miles from the prison remained off-limits to traffic, schools in the Saranac Central School District were closed Thursday “to assist law enforcement personnel with their search efforts,” but were expected to reopen on Friday, schools superintendent Jonathan Parks said in a statement.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bernadette Baum)