Two convicted murderers used power tools to cut through steel pipes at a maximum-security prison near the Canadian border and escape through a manhole, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today. "It was an elaborate plot," Cuomo said after joining law enforcement authorities to retrace the prisoners' escape route from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY. He says Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, "are two dangerous individuals." Sweat is serving a sentence of life without parole after he was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a Broome County sheriff's deputy in 2002. Matt is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for kidnapping a man and beating him to death in 1997.
The two men's adjoining cells were empty during a morning check, says Anthony Annuci, the acting state corrections commissioner. "A search revealed that here was a hole cut out of the back of the cell through which these inmates escaped," Annucci says. "They went onto a catwalk which is about 6 stories high. We estimate they climbed down and had power tools and were able to get out to this facility through tunnels, cutting away at several spots." Authorities say there are many questions including how the men acquired the tools. Annucci says prison authorities are checking to see if any power tools are missing from contractors at the facility. More than 200 officers from multiple agencies are said to be searching for the inmates. The search includes bloodhounds and aerial surveillance.