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New York State police said Friday the two killers who escaped from a New York prison three weeks ago are believed headed to Canada after reportedly finding DNA from one of them at a second burglarized hunting camp.
“We have no reason to believe they are in Canada yet,” said New York State Police Cmdr. Charles Guess, at a briefing for reporters in Malone, N.Y. “We are operating on the premise they are still in New York.”
Richard Matt, 49, and David Sweat, 35, escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on June 6. Since then they have eluded a massive manhunt involving 1,100 law enforcement personnel.
Guess said investigators have obtained evidence that the two convicted murderers are moving in a north/northwest direction toward the Canadian border. He said investigators believe the fugitives are moving primarily at night.
He said a line of officers are spread out to guard against the pair getting across the border.
If that's where they're headed, they would face crossing the St. Lawrence River if they plan to cross into Ontario. Should they head overland to Quebec, they would find themselves in a heavily French-speaking area.
A Malone police dispatcher told FoxNews.com the land in Canada on the other side of the border is the same as New York. “There’s lots of sections covered with woods,” the dispatcher said.
Former LAPD detective and Fox News contributor Mark Fuhrman said the two killers may see Canada as the perfect spot to elude the heat. There are a lot more remote areas and a lot fewer law enforcement covering those areas, he said.
“We have to conclude that the Canadians are less attentive to crime issue than we we are,” Fuhrman said. “It’s less of an issue to them. It’s also not their escaped convicts.”
Guess declined to say what evidence had been collected, only saying it had been recovered from one camp and one field site, both in the Town of Malone.. The commander said the evidence was still being processed.
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican reported earlier Friday that police found DNA from Matt at a second camp in Franklin County.
State Police said Matt and Sweat broke into a hunting camp in Mountain View last Saturday.
Forensic evidence came back Thursday night that proved Matt was in a cabin in the Town of Malone, the paper said citing informed sources. The paper said signs of intrusion were found and a sample of feces was tested.
Malone is about 15 miles north of Mountain View and only 10 miles from the Canadian border.
The paper said at 7 a.m. Friday three busloads of searchers were dropped off near the home of Sonny Morales in Trout River, a hamlet in the town of Constable.
The border with Canada is within sight of his front yard. Morales said the search teams were very cordial.
“They asked me if everything was fine and they just wanted to go through the sheds I have unlocked that (the fugitives) might have access to,” Morales told the paper.
On Thursday a prison guard charged in connection with the escape of two killers admitted providing them with tools, paint, frozen hamburger and access to a catwalk electrical box but says he never knew they planned to bust out, authorities say.
Gene Palmer was released on $25,000 bail after his arrest on charges of promoting prison contraband, tampering with evidence and official misconduct.
Palmer became the second Clinton Correctional Facility employee to be charged since Matt and Sweat used power tools to cut their way out of the maximum-security prison in far northern New York on June 6.
Prison tailor shop instructor Joyce Mitchell stands charged with helping them break out.
But in contrast to the allegations against Mitchell, Palmer said he was an unwitting helper.
"I did not realize at the time that the assistance provided to Matt or Sweat made their escape easier," he told authorities in a signed statement.
District Attorney Andrew Wylie said that based on Palmer's statements and a polygraph test, investigators have no reason to believe he was knowingly involved in the escape.
In the statement, Palmer admitted providing Matt with paint and paintbrushes. On four occasions over eight months, he supplied Sweat with needle-nose pliers and a screwdriver. He said he gave Sweat access to the catwalk later used in the escape to change the wiring on electrical boxes as "a favor" to make it easier for them to cook in their cells.
And a week before the escape, he delivered to Matt a pound of frozen ground beef in a package left by Mitchell.
"Matt provided me with elaborate paintings and information on the illegal acts that inmates were committing within the facility," Palmer told authorities. "In turn, I provided him with benefits such as paint, paintbrushes, movement of inmates, hamburger meat, altering of electrical boxes in the catwalk areas."
Wylie said Mitchell told investigators she smuggled hacksaw blades, a screwdriver and other tools into the prison by hiding them in the frozen meat.
She then put the meat in a refrigerator in the tailor shop, and Palmer took the meat to Sweat and Matt, who were housed in a section where inmates are allowed to cook their meals, according to the district attorney.
Wylie said Thursday that investigators have no proof Palmer knew hacksaw blades were embedded in the meat.
After the escape, Palmer burned and buried the inmate paintings, according to court documents.
Palmer, who has been suspended, will plead not guilty, his lawyer said. The misconduct charge relates to receiving the inmate-made paintings in exchange for the contraband pliers and screwdriver. The tampering charges stem from the destruction and concealment of the paintings.
Sweat, was serving a life sentence without parole in the killing of a sheriff's deputy. Matt, who turned 49 on Thursday, was doing 25 years to life in the kidnapping, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.