On Saturday evening, New York law enforcement seemed to be closing in on Richard Matt and David Sweat, the convicted murderers who busted out of the state's scariest prison two weeks ago. But just hours after they were supposedly spotted in Friendship, New York, new evidence in the form of old underwear shifted the focus more than 300 miles northeast to a place called Mountain View.
Officials' inability to lock shit down has been one of the subplots of a story that's captivated the nation by being alternately terrifying and salacious. But the discovery of a cabin in Mountain View with clothes and DNA evidence that reportedly match the escapees has at least helped bring the duo's initial flight into focus.
"The dogs have got a good track, and we are tightening the perimeter," one official told the upstate newspaper Plattsburgh Press-Republican Monday, "so within the next 24 to 48 hours, we're confident they will be caught."
A press conference in Cadyville, New York, Monday afternoon revealed very few details about what police found in Mountain View, but a law enforcement source told the New York Times they found a pair of underwear and DNA that matched the escapees. The Press Republican added that officials found a jar of peanut butter at the site, along with boots and bloody socks, and that the camp itself is owned by a group of corrections officers.
On Monday, June 6, Matt and Sweat used power tools to escape Clinton Correctional Facility near the Canadian border, and soon afterward, Major Charles Guess of the NYPD told CNN that the two murderers could "literally be anywhere." The following weekend, the duo was supposedly spotted almost 400 miles away from the prison in a town near the Pennsylvania border called Erwin, and a day later, someone else claimed to see them inching toward Pennsylvania.
Despite all the evidence indicating the convicts were in southwest New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo last week said that, for all he knew, Matt and Sweat were in Mexico.
This affair has been mortifying, to say the least. Although a New York Times article likened the initial escape plot to that of The Shawshank Redemption, and Cuomo seemed to buy the idea that they might be chilling like Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding and Andy Dufresne on a beach in Zihuatanejo, there's very little that movie, a life-affirming tear-jerker, has to do with this escape.
To begin with, David Sweat is a cop killer and Richard Matt is someone who dismembered his ex-boss. Prior to committing the grisly murder that landed him in "Little Siberia," as Clinton Correctional Facility is known, Matt reportedly raped a woman, stabbed a nurse, and killed an engineer outside of a bar in Mexico. Neither of them are good dudes, but a retired police captain went so far as to call the latter "vicious" and "evil."
Soon after Matt's rap sheet started making the media rounds, it was reported variously that he has a huge dick, that he was willing to seduce a 51-year-old prison worker to get power tools, and that he just so happens to be a decent celebrity portraitist.
On June 18, Sweat and Matt earned spots on the US Marshals' most-wanted list. If the goal there was to ramp up public awareness, it seems to have worked: On Saturday, in Friendship, a woman working in her garage spotted two men fitting the fugitives's descriptions emerging from the woods. One pulled a sweatshirt over his face to conceal his identity, according to the Wall Street Journal. A command center was set up in a local bingo hall, and hundreds of officers converged on the town of about 2,000 people, as well as the surrounding area.
But sightings are often bogus in cases like this and can throw police completely off track. After all, as the Timesreported, officials have also sifted through tips that suggested Matt and Sweat were going in the complete opposite direction—to Prince Edward Island, off the eastern coast of Canada.
On Sunday night, police called off the search around Friendship after deciding that it was probably a false alarm. The law enforcement official who talked to the Times suggested they were at the Mountain View cabin within the past 48 hours, and Friendship is 104 hours away from Mountain View on foot.
When the two convicted murderers first broke out, all they left behind were two dummy dolls and a possibly racist note that read, "Have a nice day!"
That message was obviously meant to taunt police. But perhaps the killers weren't giving themselves enough credit. As it stands, they've been giving the cops hell for half a month— even if it's hard to imagine they'll last a whole lot longer.
Jim Hall, a certified guide who lives near the cabin, suggested Sweat and Matt are currently contending with black bears and some seriously unforgiving terrain.
They "have got to be hungry, dirty, wet, and cold," he told the Times. "If you're not a woodsman, you could die out there real easy."
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