- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

PLATTSBURGH, New York (AP) - A prison worker charged with helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum-security facility in the state of New York had discussed with them a murder-for-hire plot involving her husband, authorities said Wednesday.

The two fugitives made their escape from the prison near the Canadian border June 6 and hundreds of law enforcement officers have been engaged in an intense manhunt in the area ever since.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said at a news conference that Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who befriended the two inmates, talked to them about the possibility of them killing her husband, Lyle, who also worked at the prison.

Lyle Mitchell arrived with his attorney Wednesday at a local police unit to talk to investigators, the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh reported.

Meanwhile, police expanded the search for the killers beyond a 16-square-mile (40-square-kilometer) area of woods, fields and swamps where the manhunt has been most intense. Police stepped up roving patrols and were checking the hundreds, if not thousands, of seasonal homes and hunting camps in the region.

Authorities say that rain has been washing away any scent dogs might find and interfering with thermal imaging devices being used to detect body heat.

David Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole in the killing of a sheriff’s deputy. Richard Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Mitchell is charged with helping the killers flee by providing them with hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She was visited in jail Tuesday by her husband.

Clinton County Sheriff David Favro described Joyce Mitchell as “composed” during the visit.

Prosecutors say Mitchell had agreed to be the getaway driver but backed out because she still loved her husband and felt guilty for participating.

Investigators have no information that Lyle Mitchell knew about the escape plan or assisted in it, Wylie said.

Joyce Mitchell was charged last week with supplying contraband, including a punch and a screwdriver, to the two inmates. She has pleaded not guilty. She has been suspended without pay from her job overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines.

Authorities say the convicts used power tools to cut through the backs of their adjacent cells, broke through a brick wall and then cut into a steam pipe and slithered through it, finally emerging outside the prison walls through a manhole. Wylie says they apparently used tools stored by prison contractors, taking care to return them to their toolboxes after each night’s work.

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Associated Press writer Michael Virtanen in Albany contributed to this report.

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