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Police Investigate New Lead On Escaped New York Prisoners

DANNEMORA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Police are investigating a possible sighting of the two convicted killers who escaped from an upstate New York prison earlier this month.

The search has shifted closer to the New York-Pennsylvania border in the area of Allegany County, N.Y. --which is being called a "hot spot" by New York State Police, CBS2's Matt Kozar reports.

The manhunt is leading authorities hundreds of miles away from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

Many residents are already noticing the uptick in police activity in the area. State Police are conducting searching of all vehicles passing through.

Authorities have also pulled a surveillance video they are reviewing.

PHOTOS: Manhunt For Escaped Murderers

And now, a correction officer is on administrative leave for his alleged role in helping the two escape from the maximum security prison, WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reported.

The unnamed correction officer was placed on leave as part of the ongoing investigation into the escape, according to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Further information was not released.

As CBS2's Ilana Gold reported, police are following a tip that David Sweat and Richard Matt may have been spotted in Steuben County, 300 miles southwest of the prison. It's possible the pair were headed to Pennsylvania.

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

Last Saturday, witnesses saw two men walking near the Gang Mills rail yard on Rita's Way in the town of Erwin, state police said. The next day, two men with the same description were seen walking around County Route 115 in the town of Lindley, toward the Pennsylvania state line.

Authorities have conducted interviews with possible witnesses and tracked down surveillance video, but those images were initially inconclusive, Gold reported. The video is now being analyzed by the State Police crime lab in Albany.

"It gave me goosebumps. My hair stood on the end. I told my wife, I know him," said Erik Jensen.

That's how Jensen reacted when he saw a familiar mug shot on the news earlier this month.

Sweat used to be Jensen's supervisor back in 2011 when he worked at the prison's tailor shop, he told CBS2's Jessica Schneider in an exclusive interview Friday.

"He wasn't loud. He was quiet, reserved. He was an artist like me. We compared artwork," Jensen said.

Jensen spent 9 months at Clinton Correctional Facility after violating the terms of his parole on a larceny conviction. He said he and Sweat shared a bond and that he never saw a bad side of the escapee.

"I didn't know he killed a police officer. I would not even think that he was in there for murder the way he held himself; the way he conducted himself; well-spoken when he did speak," Jensen said.

The former inmate said he can't imagine how Sweat and Matt came up with the sophisticated plot to get out of the prison, making it through the think prison walls and climbing out of a manhole hours before anyone noticed they weren't in their cells.

But he thinks they may have received crucial information from the woman who is accused of helping them escape -- prison worker Joyce Mitchell -- by way of her husband who also worked at the prison.

"I believe that her husband, being a maintenance worker there, knew all those little catacombs and tunnels," Jensen said.

Manhunt For 2 Prison Escapees Moves 300 Miles Southwest

Sweat and Matt escaped from the prison on June 6. On Thursday, they were added to the U.S. Marshals Service 15 Most Wanted list, so as to expand public awareness and generate new leads.

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

Prison worker Mitchell has been charged with helping in the escape effort by providing them with hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She has pleaded not guilty.

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