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Prison Worker Accused Of Helping Convicted Killers Escape Is Arrested

DANNEMORA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A worker at an upstate New York maximum-security prison was arrested late Friday, on charges she helped two convicted killers escape.

Prison tailor shop worker Joyce Mitchell was arraigned on charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitation, both felonies.

Mitchell looked scared and didn't speak during her arraignment in upstate Plattsburgh on Friday night.

Her hands were cuffed and she stared straight ahead during the arraignment.

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

As 1010 WINS reported, Mitchell is expected back in court on Monday to enter a formal plea.

PHOTOS: Convicted Killers Escape From Upstate Prison

Sources tell CBS2 Joyce Mitchell admits she provided the prisoners with hacksaw blades, drill bits and eyeglasses with lights attached.

As CBS2's Matt Kozar reported, she allegedly agreed to be the getaway driver, but got cold feet.

"They were able to convince them to assist them in the escape. A go time was established and she was supposed to pick them up when they popped that manhole," District Attorney Andrew Wylie said.

In the end the 51-year-old was a no-show at the manhole.

Mitchell's son said earlier this week that she would not have helped the inmates escape and that she checked herself into a hospital with chest pains Saturday, the day the breakout was discovered.

Because of her alleged participation Mitchell could be headed to prison, this time, as an inmate.

Wylie said Joyce Mitchell's husband, may have been involved or had knowledge of the plot, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported. He is also a prison employee and who worked in the same tailor shop with his wife.

Officials said Mitchell's husband had not been arrested or charged as of early Friday evening.

In addition to Mitchell's arrest, there were several new developments Friday in connection with the manhunt for Sweat, 34, and Matt, 48, who cut through steel and bricks and crawled through a steam pipe last Friday, emerging from a manhole outside the 40-foot walls of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border.

Police found two sets of footprints near a gas station where dogs picked up a scent.

Heavily armed officers are swarming a plot of 50 acres in Cadyville, New York after the landowner said police advised him they think the escaped convicts are currently on his property, Brennan reported.

"I have 50 acres and they told me that they have them cornered up there and wanted to know if I'd unlock the gate. I said absolutely. No problem," Tom Maggy said.

Sources said that law enforcement believes the men are still together.

"It's day six. If they have not escaped the area, or not availed themselves of shelter, you've got to assume they're cold, wet, tired, and hungry," said New York State Police Maj. Charles Guest.

Helicopters have been hovering overhead for hours.

About 300 searchers were added to the search, bringing the total number of state, federal and local law enforcement officers involved in the manhunt to more than 800.

Local schools and the main road into Dannemora remained closed.

Investigators are using night vision goggles and thermal imaging to try to locate the men. The thermal imaging is used from helicopters and picks up heat coming off a body. But it also picks up  the heat emitted from any animals such as deer in the area.

Investigators are checking year-round houses, ringing door bells, checking on residents and are also checking on mail delivery to make certain someone's mail is not filling in the mail box signaling a possible problem, the source said.

David Sweat (right) and Richard Matt (left) (Credit: New York State Police)

Mitchell has a $56,000-a-year job overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines at the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility.

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 said. 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.

Joyce Mitchell
Joyce Mitchell (CBS2)

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that investigators are "talking to several people who may have facilitated the escape.'' He warned that the law will come down hard on any prison system employee who crosses the line.

"If you do it, you will be convicted, and then you'll be on the other side of the prison that you've been policing, and that is not a pleasant place to be,'' the governor said.

dog search for escaped prisoners
Dog used in search for escaped prisoners (CBS2)

A longtime neighbor was stunned by the suspicions swirling around Mitchell.

"I just can't believe she'd do something so stupid,'' neighbor Sharon Currier said. She said Mitchell is "not somebody who's off the wall.''

She said Mitchell is a former town tax collector in Dickinson, a community near Dannemora. Skilled at sewing, she has worked for at least five years at the prison, where her husband is also employed, Currier said.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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