Investigators think a woman who worked with Richard Matt and David Sweat at the Clinton Correctional Facility planned to pick the convicted killers up after they escaped but changed her mind at the last minute, a source familiar with the investigation tells CNN.
Joyce Mitchell went to a hospital this weekend because of panic attacks, the source said.
Mitchell is one of several prison employees who has been questioned in the case. She has given a statement and is being “somewhat cooperative,” a source said. She has not been charged.
Her cell phone was used to call several people connected to Matt, another source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN. It’s unclear who made the calls or when the calls were made. Authorities are trying to determine whether Mitchell was aware her phone was being used.
Her son, Tobey Mitchell, has come to her defense.
He told NBC that she wouldn’t “risk her life or other people’s lives to help these guys escape.” He said his mother was in a hospital with severe chest pains about the time of the escape.
Authorities scoured farms and fields around an upstate New York town Tuesday, looking for the pair who escaped from a prison days earlier, a local official said.
The search was prompted by someone who spotted two “suspicious men” walking down a road in Willsboro in the middle of a “driving rainstorm” overnight “in an area that’s all … large farms and fields and wooded lots,” Town Supervisor Shaun Gillilland said. As the citizen’s car approached them, they took off.
“They were walking down the road, not dressed for the elements,” Gillilland said. “They ran into the fields, from what I understand. So this behavior … was suspicious.”
Given the meticulous detail involved in the escape, there were concerns fugitives Richard Matt and David Sweat put a similar level of planning into their getaway, including transportation.
But a law enforcement source close to the investigation doesn’t think that’s what happened, saying a witness and other indicators suggest the men have been on foot since springing themselves from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, about 40 miles north of the search site in the southern part of Willsboro.
Local, state and federal authorities set up a search perimeter there.
The stormy overnight spotting in Willsboro, a town of 2,000 people on Lake Champlain, is one of the first big potential breakthroughs since prison guards found Matt and Sweat’s beds empty at 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
Until then, the closest might have been an account from two Dannemora residents about two men, whom they now believe to be the escaped killers, walking through their backyard shortly after midnight Friday.
“I go look at him (and) I say, ‘What are you doing in my yard? Get out of here,’ ” one of the residents told ABC’s “Good Morning America” of that encounter.
The two men complied, one apologizing that he’d been on the wrong street. It wasn’t until the next day that the resident, who asked not to be named, and his female friend realized who the trespassers probably were.
They are killers whom authorities fear could do so again to evade capture.
Read more at CNN.COM.