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Escaped, convicted murderers left taunting note behind

DANNEMORA, New York - Two convicted murderers used power tools to cut through steel and shimmied through a steam pipe to escape from a maximum-security prison near the Canadian border, leaving behind a taunting note urging authorities to "Have a nice day."

The elaborate escape Saturday from an upstate New York prison had hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers searching through the night for one man imprisoned for killing a sheriff's deputy and another who dismembered his boss.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that Richard Matt and David Sweat staged "a really elaborate, sophisticated operation" that ended at a manhole cover blocks away from the prison - and must have been overheard by someone.

Maj. Charles E. Guess of the state police said more than 250 officers from multiple agencies were searching for the inmates. The search included bloodhounds and aerial surveillance, he said. Investigators are said to have already received more than 150 leads in the case.

Armed law enforcement officers are manning checkpoints on every road around the upstate New York town that houses the prison, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.

Cuomo said the prison break was the first escape from the maximum-security portion of the prison since it was built in 1865.

The men had filled their beds inside the Clinton Correctional Facility with clothes to appear as though they were sleeping. On one pipe cut in the escape, investigators found a note with a crude Asian caricature along with the words, "Have a nice day."

clinton correctional facility new york
In this Oct. 6, 2011, photo, motorists travel by Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. AP Photo/Mike Groll

Sweat, 35, is serving a sentence of life without parole after he was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a sheriff's deputy in Broome County, New York, on July 4, 2002. Matt, 49, is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the kidnapping, dismemberment and killing of his former boss in 1997.

Steven Tarsia, brother of Deputy Kevin Tarsia, said finding out his brother's killer had escaped "turns your world upside-down all over again."

Tarsia told The Associated Press on Sunday he couldn't imagine how the men could have gotten power tools and escaped without help, but "I don't know why anybody would help them."

Investigators have speculated that contractors working on the prison may have provided the tools.

Manhunt launched in New York for escaped convicts

Sweat's escape has stirred up some raw emotions in Broome County.

Capt. Fred Akshar with the Broome County Sheriff's Office said: "Mr. Sweat is a local person. He is from this area so of course the threat level goes up a little bit."

Roadblocks were set up in the area, which is about 20 miles from the Canadian border, and bloodhounds and helicopters were being used to track down the men, officials said.

Cuomo on Saturday described the two as extremely dangerous.

"The first order of business here is to get these killers back," the governor said, according to CBS New York.

"They are dangerous and we want to make sure they don't inflict any more pain and any more harm on New Yorkers," Cuomo added.

David Sweat, left, and Richard Matt are seen in this combination of photos provided by the New York State Police June 6, 2015.
David Sweat, left, and Richard Matt are seen in this combination of photos provided by the New York State Police June 6, 2015. New York State Police

The two men's adjoining cells were empty during a morning check, said Anthony Annucci, the acting state corrections commissioner.

"A search revealed that there was a hole cut out of the back of the cell through which these inmates escaped," Annucci said. "They went onto a catwalk which is about six 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."

Investigators were probing how the men acquired the tools - and if any were missing from contractors at the prison.

History shows American prison escapees usually caught

Canadian broadcaster CTV News reported that officials are concerned the men may attempt to enter Canada through Ontario or Quebec, and safety alerts have been broadcast to police officers in the Greater Toronto Area.

Sweat and another man fired 15 rounds into Deputy Tarsia in 2002 shortly after using a pickup truck to break into a Pennsylvania woman's house, stealing rifles and handguns, authorities have said.

And nearly a decade after the 1997 kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of his former boss, William Rickerson, in upstate New York, Matt was returned to the U.S. from Mexico where he had fled to and, later, was arrested for fatally stabbing another American outside a bar in a robbery attempt. He was convicted in 2008 of Rickerson's death.

A family member of Rickerson reached by phone declined comment to The Associated Press.

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