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Authorities Find Items Linked To New York Prison Escapees

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

One of the reasons the story of two murderers who escaped from a New York prison a couple of weeks ago has stayed news is that they seem to have just disappeared. In recent days, there have been reported leads from far across the state. But yesterday, when police picked up their first trace of the inmates, it was in the swampy woods just west of Dannemora, the very town where the prison is located. North Country Public Radio's Zach Hirsch reports.

ZACH HIRSCH, BYLINE: Search teams have spent more than a week scouring the villages right near the prison, but they never confirmed having a tangible link to Richard Matt or David Sweat until now.

CHARLES GUESS: We have developed evidence that the suspects may have spent time in a cabin in this area.

HIRSCH: That's Major Charles Guess of the New York State Police. He said investigators have recovered specific items from a house in the remote hamlet of Owl's Head, N. Y., where there are a lot of hunting camps and seasonal residences. Because of the ongoing investigation, Guess declined to stay what the items are, how much time he believes the inmates spent in the cabin or how recently. But he said investigators reached a conclusive determination about what they found. The material gives police more to go on than some of the sightings that have been reported.

GUESS: It's 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.

HIRSCH: Multiple news sources have reported that a DNA match for Sweat, Matt or both of the men is what sparked the intensified police presence in Owl's Head. Yesterday, hundreds of law enforcement officers from local, New York State and federal agencies swarmed to the hamlet. There were roadblocks and helicopters flying overhead. Meanwhile, state prison officials have placed a male corrections officer at Clinton Correctional Facility on administrative leave. Officials haven't confirmed the identity of the officer.

GUESS: He is part of the ongoing investigation, and I will not comment about how productive or fruitful that investigation has been regarding that particular CO.

HIRSCH: Only one person has been arrested so far - Joyce Mitchell, a former prison tailor shop instructor accused of helping the men escape. Her next court date has not been set. For NPR News, I'm Zach Hirsch in Northern New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.