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New Details Emerge From Woman Who Believes She Spotted Escaped Convicts

FRIENDSHIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New details have emerged from a woman who believes she spotted the two murder convicts who escaped from a northern New York prison.

The manhunt began to heat up as officials scoured a rural area Sunday near the Pennsylvania border after possible sightings shifted the search across the state.

State Police Maj. Michael Cerretto said Sunday that 300 law enforcement officers were brought in to Allegany County following an unconfirmed report a day earlier of a sighting near a railroad line that runs along a county road.

He says police interviewed the witness at length and decided she was credible and the tip bore investigating.

Brandy Thompson called 911 after she believes she spotted the two wanted men in her backyard. Thompson lives 300 miles away from Allegeny County near the Pennsylvania border.

"My dog started barking viciously towards the track, I turned around and looked and I see a man in a blue hooded shirt, he was just turning around and he looked sort of like he wanted not to be seen," Thompson said. "I did catch a glimpse of his face. He had reddish-brown beard on his mustache area like it was previously a goatee."

A law enforcement official later confirmed to CBS News that investigators have a DNA match confirming that the escaped prisoners were in the Saranac Lake area of New York within the last 24 hours.

PHOTOS: Manhunt For Escaped Murderers

David Sweat and Richard Matt broke out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on June 6 using power tools and leaving behind dummies under bedcovers in their adjoining cells.

Until Saturday, the search was concentrated in a several-mile radius around the prison, before moving 350 miles south.

Manhunt For Escaped Killers Shifts After Possible Sighting

"We will search under every rock, behind every tree and structure until we are confident that that area is secure," Cerretto said at a news conference.

Authorities also said Friday that two men fitting the descriptions of Sweat and Matt had been seen a week ago in Steuben County, east of Allegany County. Two men were seen walking near a rail yard in Erwin on June 13, and then seen the next day in Lindley, heading toward the Pennsylvania border.

Progression Photos David Sweat And Richard Matt
Progression images of inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt shows what they may look like after 10 days. (credit: NY State Police)

Investigators conducted interviews in both communities and sent surveillance video to Albany for further analysis. Railroads in Steuben and Allegany Counties referred inquiries Sunday to the state police.

"If the prisoners were actually in Allegany County and Friendship, it obviously means they didn't walk," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday. "It probably means they didn't take a vehicle because they would have stayed in the vehicle. So one possibility -- not a certainty, but a possiblity -- is they're riding the rails. And there's a long train line that connects across southern New York that they might have ridden."

If the two escapees are still roaming the woods together, that's not surprising, said Patrick Patten, who trains law enforcers on woodland tracking and has been involved in high-profile manhunts including the search for Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph. Patten said fugitives in the wilderness often stick together, unless they have pre-planned to split up and come back together at a camp or other hideaway.

State police moved the search command post from the prison Saturday to nearby Cadyville and focused attention on the other side of the state. They advised the public to report any suspicious activity and asked residents who live in the Friendship area along the New York-Pennsylvania border to be on alert.

The two men are "very dangerous" and should not be approached, state police said. Several roads around Friendship were blocked off, and police used helicopters and search dogs

"I was a little concerned. You have these guys running around. You don't know where they are," resident Darryl Ross told The Leader newspaper. "I have a house with a big cellar and a big garage. I cleared the house. I had firearm protection."

Sweat, 35, was serving a life sentence without parole for killing a sheriff's deputy. Matt, 48, was doing 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Prison worker Joyce Mitchell remained in custody on charges she helped the two men escape by providing them hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She has pleaded not guilty.

Officials said a corrections officer also has been placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation into the men's escape. The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said no additional information was available.

(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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