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Police Discover DNA Evidence In New York Inmate Manhunt


A break today in the massive manhunt for two inmates missing from a state prison in northern New York. State Police announced that they found DNA evidence tying at least one of the inmates to a cabin in a remote area called Mountain View. It's about 30 miles west of the Clinton Correctional Facility. Here's State Police major Charles Guess speaking this afternoon.


MAJOR CHARLES GUESS: It' a confirmed lead for us. It has generated a massive law enforcement response, as you can see, and we're going to run this to ground.

BLOCK: North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann was at the command center today near Mountain View, and he joins us now. Brian, talk a bit about this massive law enforcement response there. What's the scene?

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Yeah, pretty dramatic here today. This has been a huge manhunt right from day one, but this was really up a notch, kind of a paramilitary style response. They saw FBI command vehicles rolling in, squads of really heavily armed State Forest Rangers in all-terrain vehicles kind of filing off into the woods and big convoys of State Police and other agents swarming in. They've basically kind of locked down this very wild, very remote corner of the Adirondack Mountains. One law enforcement official who'd been inside the perimeter beyond where I could go told me that it looked like a warzone in there.

BLOCK: And what more can you tell us about this DNA evidence linked to the cabin that they discovered?

MANN: Yeah. This is a big breakthrough. This is the first absolutely confirmed trace of these guys that we've seen, so State Police are being pretty closemouthed about exactly what it is they discovered in the cabin that had that trace. They say it's clear, though, that the camp was broken into and apparently used as a refuge, likely, they think, sometime over the weekend. They're also not confirming whether it's a match for both inmates, Richard Matt and David Sweat, or just one of these guys. Here's Major Guess again speaking a short time ago.

GUESS: We have recovered specific items from that cabin. We have forwarded them to the appropriate laboratories and reached conclusive determination, but we are not prepared to release that evidence at this time so we do not jeopardize the continuity of the investigation.

MANN: And Brian you say this evidence was likely from - left over the weekend. These two convicted murderers have been on the run for more than two weeks, as you say. This is very rugged, wild terrain. The idea now, I guess, is that they've been living off the land all this time right there near the prison. They didn't get very far.

MANN: Yeah. This has been a bit of a surprise. At first, it seemed pretty certain that these guys must have had an elaborate plan to get away from this area after they spent weeks secretly digging and cutting their way out of this maximum-security prison. But it now looks more and more likely that their big getaway plan was to, you know, get help from this one prison worker, Joyce Mitchell. She allegedly helped the men escape, and authorities now say they think she just got cold feet and backed out of the deal. So when they popped up out of that manhole cover on June 6, they may have just been stranded there.

BLOCK: Joyce Mitchell, we should say, is in jail. She's awaiting trial for her alleged role in this. And another worker at the prison, a corrections officer, is on administrative leave. When you talk to folks up there in the North Country, Brian, what are they telling you about how - what an emotional toll this is taking on everybody around there?

MANN: Nerves are really frayed here. You know, this has gone on a lot longer than anyone expected. This is the time of year when people in this really rural area get out into the woods, out to their cabins, their gardens, their favorite fishing spots. And it's also a time when a lot of tourists and seasonal residents start coming north to our area. So you know, to have this constant threat and the idea that these very dangerous men could still be lurking out there, getting more and more desperate as the day goes by, people are really ready for this to end.

BLOCK: OK, Brian. Thanks so much.

MANN: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: That's North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.