OWLS HEAD, N.Y. (WIVB) — In day 19 of a manhunt for two escaped murderers, New York State Police are honing in on an area only 30 miles from Clinton Correctional Facility.
Richard Matt and David Sweat, two convicted murderers, escaped from that facility near Dannemora over two weeks ago, and a search has been on since. Police on Wednesday said they’re buffing up police presence in their search area and are reinforcing towns around Owls Head to ensure Matt and Sweat don’t have a chance of slipping through their grasp.
“We continue to aggressively pursue leads in this case,” New York State Troop Major Charles Guess said. “We have developed more than 2,200 leads as of today, and more continue to come in.”
Captain John Streiff, of the New York State Forest Rangers, said searchers have been up against an environment with changing weather conditions and tough terrain. He said searchers are dealing with both wetlands with bogs and dense wooded areas.
“Searchers are methodically moving through an environment which is not only difficult to navigate, but the distance you can see ahead of you is sometimes only a few feet or less,” Streiff said.
As police move through the area — a 75-square mile area which centers around Owls Head and Malone — they say they’re searching camps and secondary homes — like the cabin which held DNA belonging to both Matt and Sweat, which sparked the more in-depth hunt. Major Guess spoke briefly about what was recovered in the cabin and what it could mean to the hunt.
We have every reason to believe that they were at the point last seen, where that cabin is. Their distance from that cabin could be extensive if their travel was unimpeded – New York State Troop Major Charles Guess
“There are numerous items which we recovered from that cabin,” Guess said. “We have no definitive information to reveal that someone was injured. Let’s face it, a bloody sock could mean someone had a blister.”
Police also commented about the small distance traveled after an escape more than two weeks ago from the maximum security prison just 30 miles away. Guess says the two could have traveled very far if they had unimpeded travel, but with police presence, they would not be able to travel in the open.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep them hunkered down until we can capture them,” Guess said.
If Matt and Sweat are found together, police say they’ve prepared for that, but they’re also prepared for the reality that the two murderers are likely armed.
“Just about every cabin in the area has one or more shotguns or weapons,” Guess said.
After breaking into the hunting cabin for respite less than two days ago, police suggest that they likely pilfered weapons — potentially shotguns and ammunition — from the cabin.
While the search on the ground continues, police say their investigators are working to learn if there’s any outside help being given, or if they can glean anything from anybody who may have aided the murderers.
“What we know for sure is Joyce Mitchell, who has been arrested and charged, assisted them, and our investigators — all investigators — are exploring what further leads or collaborative efforts could have aided them,” Guess said.
Police iterated while they’ve had thousands of tips, they still haven’t had a confirmed sighting. That reality has forced them to look to bordering states and nations for preparedness. Guess said they’re working with INTERPOL and Canadian Police, as well as Border Patrol and officials from other states to prepare for the possibility that they aren’t still in New York.
While the search continues on in New York State, police say they’re optimistic about validating their efforts with a capture.
“What you’re seeing here is the face of relentless pursuit, and we’re going to be relentless until we capture these people,” Guess said. “We don’t want them to have a restful, peaceful night, putting their head on any pillow, whether it ends here in Owls Head of continues for an indeterminate amount of time.”
Anybody with evidence or a sighting is still asked to call police at 1-800-GIVETIP.