U.S. governor: DNA found miles from prison linked to killers

Police confirm latest search effort — one of many during past 17 days — is a confirmed lead

BELLMONT, N.Y. — DNA found just miles from a maximum-security prison in New York state has been linked to the convicted murderers who escaped more than two weeks ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo told reporters Monday night that the current lead has “good evidence, DNA data” regarding inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt. It wasn’t immediately clear if the DNA belonged to one or both of the inmates.

“I believe we will get these guys,” Cuomo said. He also cautioned that they’ve had a number of leads and have to follow each as if it’s the one that’s going to bring authorities to the escapees.

Police Maj. Charles Guess said Monday that authorities had recovered “specific items” from a cabin that were sent to labs for DNA and other testing. He did not elaborate on what the items were.

Terry Bellinger, owner of a nearby mountain lodging, said a hunter told him he saw a man run into the woods as he approached the cabin Saturday on an all terrain vehicle. When the hunter went inside, he noticed two things out of place: a jug of water and an open jar of peanut butter on a table. Bellinger said the hunter went to his restaurant, where he talked to police for several hours.

Searchers using dogs and helicopters on Tuesday continued to focus intensely on the heavily wooded area near the cabin, not far from the Canadian border.

Sweat and Matt escaped from the prison on June 6. Authorities say they cut through the steel wall at the back of their cell, crawled down a catwalk, broke through a brick wall, cut their way into and out of a steam pipe, and then sliced through the chain and lock on a manhole cover outside the prison.

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 kidnapping, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.