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Prison instructor charged in New York inmates' escape

PLATTSBURGH, New York -- A worker at an upstate New York maximum-security prison was arraigned Friday night on charges she helped two convicted killers escape last weekend.

Prison tailor shop instructor Joyce Mitchell, 51, was arraigned on the felony charge of promoting prison contraband and misdemeanor count of criminal facilitation, authorities said. Her lawyer, Keith Bruno, entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Mitchell is accused of befriending inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora and giving them contraband.

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Joyce Mitchell, left, stands with her attorney Keith Bruno as she is arraigned in City Court on Friday, June 12, 2015, in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on charges of helping convicts Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from a maximum security prison. REUTERS/Mike Groll/Pool

She entered the courtroom with her hands cuffed in front of her, clad in jeans and a green top and looking terrified. She did not speak. She was ordered held in jail on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond on felony count and is due back in court Monday morning.

District Attorney Andrew Wylie would not elaborate on the charges. Earlier Friday, he said the contraband did not include power tools used by the men as they cut holes in their cell walls and a steam pipe to escape through a manhole last weekend.

An instructor in the tailor shop where the men worked, Mitchell is also suspected of agreeing to be a getaway driver but didn't show up, leaving the men on foot early Saturday morning. Mitchell's family has said she wouldn't have helped the convicts break out.

New tracks found in manhunt for escaped killers

Clinton County, New York Sheriff David Favro said earlier Friday that there was no indication she was being uncooperative. At a news conference later Friday, officials said authorities had interviewed Mitchell and that those interviews were "fruitful and productive."

CBS News correspondent Anna Werner reports Mitchell admitted to investigators she helped plan the escape.

Werner reports investigators are exploring whether Mitchell's husband -- who is also a prison employee -- was involved in the plot. Officials said Friday night that Mitchell's husband has not been charged and is not in custody.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the inmates -- Sweat, 34, and Matt, 48, -- is focused on an area in Cadyville, New York, which is just 3 miles from the town of Dannemora, where the two cut their way out of their cells last weekend. Dannemora is just 20 miles south of the Canadian border.

Anna Werner reported Friday afternoon that a man who owns 50 acres of land in Cadyville says police advised him they think the escaped convicts are on his property. Werner says more than 500 officers were focusing on that community.

"We're coming for you, and we will not stop until you are caught," state police Maj. Charles Guess said in addressing the escapees as he headed a news conference after Mitchell's arrest.

Guess said officers were getting closer with every step they take on the ground and in the investigation. Though searchers were contending with bad weather so were Sweat and Matt, the major said.

"They've got to be cold, wet, tired and hungry" if they haven't escaped the area or found shelter, Guess said.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told CBS News Friday morning that authorities had found two sets of footprints at a Mobil gas station in Dannemora and that bloodhounds detected the escapees' scents there.

CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton reports dogs picked up the fugitives' scent in Cadyville, as well.

On Friday, a law enforcement source told Milton that investigators believe the men are still together.

Mitchell has a job with a yearly salary of $57,697, overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines at the prison. Amid the criminal case, she was suspended without pay.

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Richard Matt and David Sweat

Within the past year, officials looked into whether Mitchell had improper ties to the 34-year-old Sweat, who was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff's deputy, Wylie sad. He gave no details on the nature of the suspected relationship.

The investigation didn't turn up anything solid enough to warrant disciplinary charges against her, the district attorney said.

"But action, I think, was taken to separate the two of them for a period," he said.

The state corrections department would not comment on the investigation.

Manhunt for escaped inmates intensifies

Wylie would not specify what contraband items he believes Mitchell supplied to the killers for their escape, except to say that the objects weren't the power tools the two used to cut through steel, bricks and a steam pipe.

Contraband can include such things as cellphones, weapons, drugs, tools and unauthorized clothing.

On Thursday, a person close to the investigation told the Associated Press that Mitchell had befriended the two men and agreed to be the getaway driver but never showed up. The person was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Wylie told CBS News he believes Mitchell was at first manipulated by the inmates but eventually backed out of the plan.

"I think she you know say the light... Just realized, 'What am I doing?' and so she didn't show up," Wylie said.

A former slipper-factory employee who won three terms as tax collector in her town near Dannemora, Mitchell has worked at the prison for at least five years, according to a neighbor, Sharon Currier.

"She's a good, good person," Currier said. "She's not somebody who's off the wall."

The garment shop is intended to give prisoners job skills and work habits. In general, an inmate assigned to such a job might work several hours a day there, five days a week, meaning he would have significant contact with supervisors.

Mitchell's union, Civil Service Employees Association Local 1000, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But her daughter-in-law, Paige Mitchell, said this week that her mother-in-law never mentioned Sweat, Matt or any other inmates she encountered. "She doesn't get too involved," Paige Mitchell told the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh.

And Mitchell's son Tobey told NBC that she would not have helped the inmates escape and that she checked herself into a hospital with chest pains on Saturday, the day the breakout was discovered.