News Richard Matt, David Sweat prison escape timeline By amNY.com staff Updated December 31, 2018 10:41 AM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email Clinton Correctional Facility officials realized two convicted murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were missing from their cells on June 6, 2015. That discovery sent them on a nearly three-week-long manhunt to locate the New York prison escapees who sawed their way out of their cells with aid from an employee, Joyce Mitchell. The escape comes to life in a Showtime television drama series "Escape at Dannemora," directed by Ben Stiller. To mark its premiere on Sunday, look back at a timeline of all the events concerning their escape. June 6, 2015: Prison break Photo Credit: Darren McGee/New York State Governor's Office via Getty Images Prison guards at Clinton Correctional Facility discovered that Matt, 48, and Sweat, 35, were missing during an early-morning inspection on June 6, 2015. Located about 40 miles from the Canadian border, the facility had never had an escape in its 150-year history. Matt was serving 25 years to life for dismembering a man, and Sweat was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for killing a sheriff's deputy. The two men, who both worked in the prison tailor shop, used power tools to cut a hole in the back wall around the air vents, removing the air vents at night while they worked. "They went onto a catwalk, which is about six stories high," acting state corrections commissioner Anthony Annucci said. "We estimate they climbed down and had power tools and were able to get out to this facility through tunnels, cutting away at several spots." They reportedly exited from a manhole on the street outside the prison walls. Matt and Sweat left clothes in their beds to look like they were still in there. They left a note to their jailers that read: "Have a nice day!" Gov. Andrew Cuomo canceled plans to attend the Belmont Stakes and went to the facility, which he said was called "Little Siberia" due to its remote location. "You look at the precision of the operation. It was truly extraordinary," Cuomo said at a news conference outside the prison. June 8, 2015 : Female staffer questioned Photo Credit: Darren McGee/New York State Governor's Office via Getty Images Speaking on CNN on June 8, Cuomo said investigators were "looking at the civilian employees now and the private contractors to see if a civil employee or contractor may have helped in the escape." By that night, police confirmed they were questioning a female staffer (later identified as Mitchell), who had befriended Sweat and Matt. June 10, 2015: Manhunt expands to Vermont Photo Credit: Getty Images / Eric Thayer On the fifth day of the manhunt, more than 450 federal, state and local law enforcement officials expanded their search from the rugged Adirondack Park near the prison to Vermont's Green Mountains. Earlier in the week, police had closed a stretch of highway just miles from the prison to investigate leads. Based off interviews with Mitchell, police said Sweat and Matt had discussed going to Vermont, which is easily accessible via a ferry on Lake Champlain and has dense wilderness. June 12, 2015: Search focuses on nearby woods Photo Credit: Getty Images / Eric Thayer The hundreds of federal, state and local officials looking for Sweat and Matt refocused their efforts on the densely wooded area around the Clinton Correctional Facility as the manhunt entered its sixth day. Bloodhounds reportedly picked up the scent of the prisoners in a heavily wooded area east of Dannemora. June 12, 2015: Joyce Mitchell arraigned Photo Credit: Getty Images / Eric Thayer Mitchell, 51, was arraigned on June 12 on charges that she helped Matt and Sweat escape. She pleaded not guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation, which carry a sentence of up to 7 years in prison. Mitchell, a training supervisor in the tailor shop, reportedly told investigators that she provided power tools and cellphone access to Sweat and Matt, who apparently wooed her for months to get her to drive the getaway car. Mitchell is married to another prison employee, and her 27-year-old son told the "Today" show earlier in the week that Mitchell "is not the kind of person that's going to risk her life or other people's lives to let these guys escape from prison." According to the Albany Times-Union, Mitchell told investigators she helped the men escape and that one of them had mentioned a plan to kill her husband. Investigators said Mitchell was supposed to drive the getaway car, but she suffered a panic attack and instead checked into the hospital. June 15, 2015: Sweat's birthday Photo Credit: NYS Police Sweat turned 35 while still on the lam on June 15, his ninth day on the run. By now, more than 800 law enforcement officials were on the hunt for Sweat and Matt in the densely wooded area just east of the Adirondack Mountains. Meanwhile, Mitchell appeared in court in a black-and-white prison jumpsuit, fresh from a county jail 165 miles from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, where most of the town works in some capacity for the prison. June 17, 2015: State police release prisoner projections Photo Credit: NYS Police As police expanded their search for Sweat and Matt, state officials released projections of Sweat and Matt, including facial hair they may have grown since they escaped. Police also revised the men's physical descriptions, now putting Matt at 5' 10" and 210 pounds and Sweat at 5' 10" and 165 pounds. June 19, 2015: Wilderness experts say the pair may not survive much longer Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton As the manhunt for Matt and Sweat neared the end of its second week, wilderness experts said the two men may not survive longer in the wilderness. "It's a fallacy to think, unless they're some kind of really exceptional person, that they could flee into the woods with nothing and make it," said Pat Patten, who teaches tracking skills in North Carolina. Additionally, Sweat and Matt escaped during the height of black fly season, when insect repellent and head nets are often necessary. Matt had a history of escape attempts. In 1986, he broke out of Erie County's Correctional Facility, only to be caught five days later in a family apartment near Buffalo. While fleeing arrest in 1997 for torture, murder and dismemberment of his boss, he ran to Mexico, where he was soon put in prison for stabbing a man to death in a bar fight. He attempted to escape, but only made it as far as the roof before being shot in the shoulder, his son, Richard Harris, 23, said. "This guy has bullet holes on his body. He's been shot like nine times. It's like they can't kill him," Harris said. June 19, 2015: Prison corrections officer suspended Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton On Friday, June 19, 13 days into the hunt for the criminals, a New York State corrections officer was placed on administrative leave in connection with the prison escape investigation by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The officer worked as an inmate escort. June 20, 2015: Manhunt extends to Pennsylvania border Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton After the manhunt focused on the woods surrounding Dannemora for two weeks, authorities moved to the town of Friendship, New York, about 280 miles from the Clinton Correctional Facility after a possible sighting of the men. State police said they received a tip about a "credible sighting" of Sweat and Matt but stressed the sighting was "unconfirmed." About 300 law enforcement officials descended onto the area, near the Pennsylvania border. June 22, 2015: DNA reportedly found in cabin in upstate NY Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton After expanding the search to the Pennsylvania border, the manhunt closed in on an area just 20 miles from the Clinton Correctional Facility on June 22. DNA from the two escaped prisoners was found inside a cabin in Owls Head, New York, according to CNN. State police confirmed the cabin was being tested for DNA, but did give any more details. Police warned camp owners in the area to be on the lookout for anything suspicious. June 23, 2015: Joyce Mitchell's husband, Lyle, speaks Photo Credit: Today One week after his wife appeared in court, Lyle Mitchell spoke publicly on "Today" with former co-anchor Matt Lauer. Lyle Mitchell said he "just couldn't believe it" when he heard the news about Matt and Sweat's escape, and he said he was "shocked" that the police were even questioning them. He said his wife told him that she got "in over head" and that the escaped prisoners wanted to kill him, and that she told them "I love my husband, I'm not hurting him." Lyle also said his wife swore to him "on her son's life" that she never had sex with Matt, despite the rumors. Lyle said he "absolutely" believed that both he and his wife would be dead if she had driven the getaway car. When Lauer asked if Lyle planned to stand by his wife, he said, "as of right now, I don't know what to think ... Do I love her? Yes. Am I mad? Yes. How could she do this to our kids?" June 24, 2015: State police warn Matt and Sweat might have guns Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton Days after the news that manhunt now was focused on Owls Head, Maj., Charles Guess of the New York State Police warned the inmates could have obtained guns from the cabin where they were hiding. "Just about every cabin or outbuilding in the North Country has one or more shotguns or weapons," Guess said. "They put an inordinate amount of weapons and ammunition and other tools in these shared seasonal hunting camps and cabins." Guess said it didn't appear the cabin owners had inventory on their weapons. Meanwhile, Guess confirmed police had "100 percent assurance [Sweat and Matt] were in that area" at some point. Gov. Cuomo said the cabin lead was based on "good evidence -- DNA evidence." June 25, 2015: Gene Palmer charged with helping escape Photo Credit: NYS Police A second prison worker, Gene Palmer, was charged on Wednesday, June 24, with three felony counts and one misdemeanor after helping Matt and Sweat escape. Palmer, who worked at the prison for 27 years, allegedly passed along frozen meat that had escape tools inside, although Palmer's attorney told CNN that he was unaware the meat had the tools in it. Palmer also took Matt and Sweat on a catwalk for electrical work. Authorities said Matt and Sweat used that catwalk to escape. Additionally, court documents alleged Palmer supplied Sweat and Matt with a screwdriver and pliers in exchange for paintings. Palmer pleaded not guilty and was sentenced to six months in Clinton County Jail. He served four, and was released in July 2016. June 26, 2015: Police believe Matt and Sweat are headed to Canada Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton As the manhunt enters its fourth week, Guess said on June 26 that he believed Sweat and Matt were headed to Canada, located just 20 miles away from Clinton Correctional Facility -- but he said he believed the escapees were still in New York. "Based on what we know at this point, we have a high degree of confidence in our decision," Guess said. Guess said police were conducting DNA tests on the items they believe Matt and Sweat dropped along the way. He did not say what the items, but the Press-Republican reported that police found DNA in a second cabin in Malone. June 26, 2015: Matt reported shot and killed Photo Credit: Handout Just hours after state police announced that it appeared that Matt and Sweat were making a beeline for the Canadian border, several news organizations reported that Matt had been shot and killed by authorities. He was killed near Malone, about 27 miles from the prison. According to police, Matt apparently fired a shot at a passing car on Friday, and officers spotted him, confronted him outside the cabin and he refused to drop his weapon. Police said he had bug bites and other signs that were consistent with living in the woods. The owner of the cabin where the pair were believed to have been hiding said there were empty liquor bottles inside. Matt had turned 49 the day before. June 28, 2015: Sweat taken into custody Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Olson Sweat was shot and captured by police on June 28, two days after Matt was killed. The next day, Sweat talked to investigators about the escape. According to Cuomo, Sweat said he and Matt planned to go to Mexico, but the plan already started to fall apart when Mitchell didn't show up with the getaway car. The men split up about five days before Sweat was caught, when Sweat, who is younger, believed Matt was slowing him down. June 30, 2015: Prison officials suspended Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton Two days after Sweat's capture, 12 people were reportedly placed on leave from Clinton Correctional Facility, according to CNN. Superintendent Steven Racette and Deputy Superintendent Stephen Brown were among those suspended, CNN said. Meanwhile, Sweat's condition was upgraded to fair, the Albany Medical Center said in a statement on its Facebook page. June 30, 2015: Matt's family misses the deadline to claim his body Photo Credit: NYS Police No one in Matt's family initially stepped forward to claim his body, said Franklin County Coroner Bryan Langdon. His daughter declined to claim the body and his son was not immediately reached, although some reports indicated his son intended to show up. Matt was no longer a ward of state when he was killed, so he was not to buried at the prison graveyard, Langdon said. On July 2, CBS reported Matt's body was claimed by his son, Nick Harris, and his son's mother, Vee. They said the body was taken to Buffalo, New York for burial. July 1, 2015: Clinton Correctional Facility gets overhaul Photo Credit: Getty Images / Eric Thayer After Sweat started giving investigators details into the escape, Cuomo ordered an investigation into the Clinton Correctional Facility, which houses 3,000 inmates and has 900 correction officers. Stricter security measures have been put into place, including inspections of cells and catwalks and sweeps for contraband. Two of the 12 employees put on leave were guards on duty the night that Matt and Sweat escaped, according to The New York Times. The prison also named a new superintendent, Michael Kirkpatrick, a 30-year correction veteran who had worked at at correctional facility in Elmira, New York. July 5, 2015: Sweat moved to another prison Photo Credit: NYS Police After spending less than a week in the hospital, Sweat was transferred to the Five Points Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Romulus, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said in a statement. Sweat was set to stay in a single cell for 23 hours a day and was on suicide watch, according to the DOCCS. While at Clinton Correctional Facility, Sweat was housed in the prison's honor block, where he earned special privileges such as cooking his own meals, yard access, wearing street clothing and some freedom of movement. Sweat told investigators that he and Matt went on a dry run the night before their escape, and altered their plan after deciding there were too many houses by the manhole they wanted to use to escape. July 20, 2015: New York Times publishes in-depth investigation Photo Credit: New York State Governor's Office via Getty Images / Darren McGee As the sole survivor of the prison escape, it was perhaps unsurprising that Sweat painted himself as the mastermind. The New York Times interviewed several of Sweat's interrogators, who said he told them he spent his nights exploring the tunnels in the prison. In fact, Sweat said he and Matt often joked about how it would take them half the time to escape than the hero of "The Shawhank Redemption." July 28, 2015: Joyce Mitchell pleads guilty Photo Credit: Getty Images / G.N. Miller-Pool After weeks of speculation, Mitchell pleaded guilty to helping Matt and Sweat escape. The district attorney said she said she would help provide information into the "systematic breakdown" at the prison, and that she would not face sexual assault charges. Mitchell was sentenced to up to seven years in prison for helping the two men escape. July 29, 2015: Details emerge about Joyce Mitchell Photo Credit: Getty Images / Pool One day after Joyce Mitchell pleaded guilty, details emerged from her sworn court documents. She said she helped Matt and Sweat because she was "caught up in the fantasy," according to NBC News. Mitchell said both men were "nice" to her and she admitted to kissing Matt and performing oral sex on him, but she insisted they never had sex. Mitchell said she and Sweat were never in a sexual relationship, although she said she did pass him notes "of a sexual nature" that included naked photos of herself. Mitchell told investigators she backed out of the plan after Matt said they would kill her husband, who they called "the Glitch." "I know I had agreed to help them escape and run away with them, but I panicked and couldn't follow through with the rest of the plan. I really do love my husband and that's the reason," she said, according to NBC News. Two months after her guilty plea, Mitchell was sentenced to between two and seven years in prison, plus an additional one year for a criminal facilitation charge. Mitchell cried as she read out a statement of remorse, telling the judge, "If I could take it all back I would." In September 2017, Mitchell was denied parole for a release for a second time. Aug. 5, 2015: Autopsy released for Matt Photo Credit: NYS Police According to autopsy results, Matt was drunk when he was shot to death by New York State Police. Matt's blood alcohol level was 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit to drive a car in New York State, according to NBC News. Authorities said an officer shot Matt when he refused to comply with orders to surrender. The autopsy also revealed that he was shot three times in the head, and that the cause of death was severe skull fractures and brain injuries. Aug. 11, 2015: Fellow prisoners allege abuse Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton Weeks after Sweat was captured, a The New York Times reported that fellow prisoners at Clinton Correctional Facility alleged abuse after the escape. Prisoners on the "honor block" said they were questioned harshly, threatened with torture and eventually even transferred out of Clinton Correctional Facility. Aug. 14, 2015: Records released on manhunt's cost Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton While some people said the manhunt helped the economy around Dannemora, it came at a cost to the state: $23 million, to be exact. At the height of the search, hundreds of law enforcement officers were deployed in the area for the search -- and being paid overtime. "If we lost one life of an innocent victim, what's the price tag you put on that?" said State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico. Aug. 20, 2015: Sweat arraigned Photo Credit: NYS Police In his first public court appearance since the escape, Sweat was arraigned on two counts of escape in the first degree and one count of promoting prison contraband. Sweat, wearing a dark green prison jumpsuit and with his arm in a sling, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole, and he faces disciplinary charges from the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Feb. 3, 2016: Sweat receives maximum sentence for prison escape Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton Sweat was given a maximum sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of escape and one of promoting prison contraband, Reuters reported. The sentence is, of course, largely a formality, because he was already serving a life term. Before the sentencing, Sweat apologized to Clinton Supreme Court Justice Patrick McGill for creating fear in the community surrounding the Clinton Correctional Facility (pictured). "That was never my intent," said Sweat, who had a goatee, shaved head and glasses, according to Reuters. "I deeply apologize for that, Your Honor." In November 2017, Sweat was moved to another prison, this time the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate Attica. By amNY.com staff Share on Facebook Share on Twitter More on this topic Who's who in 'Escape at Dannemora'Patricia Arquette portrays the woman accused of helping two inmates escape. 'Dannemora' cast transformed to become prison break's players"Patricia [Arquette] and I would sit at lunch and just devour plates of food." Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.