With rumors swirling and area residents desperate for a resolution, law enforcement officers spent the day investigating leads in the Willsboro area— their third day searching for two murderers who escaped from the Clinton Correctional facility over the weekend.
Tuesday’s focus in the search for the fugitives, who used power tools to tunnel out of the prison complex at Dannemora, appeared to be near the village of Willsboro, where Supervisor Shaun Gilliland reports a number of police descended after a report of two individuals walking along a rural road late Monday night. Willsboro, in Essex County, is about 40 miles southeast of the prison complex. “Any tip that seems credible the police are going to take very seriously. It was very unusual to be walking down a very rural road in the middle of the night in a driving rainstorm. And then I guess when the people’s car approached, these individuals took off into the fields. That’s what I understand prompted it.”
The Saranac Central School District is located about a half a mile from the Clinton Correctional facility. Following the escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat this weekend, law enforcement scoured the school buildings. Superintendent Jonathan Parks says security precautions include state police on campus and no outside activities, and bus drivers have received special instructions. “There’s a range of reaction to all of this. Some are concerned and worried. Luckily they all seem to feel safe at school and coming to school. Our attendance has been actually higher than normal over the last couple of days. We’re all doing things to try to make them feel a little bit better about being in school. And I think in the back if everybody’s mind not knowing, or not having any concrete information about the location of those people is a little bit concerning. There’s no doubt about it.”
Clinton Correctional is about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Jacqueline Roby says they are working in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection along with Canadian police forces such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to prevent any illegal entry into Canada. “When the Border Services Agency in Canada gets information on high risk individuals or situations we will input a lookout in our systems, the CBSA systems, a lookout that can be accessed by all our officers working on the border. So then therefore we will exercise our usual vigilance and bring more attention to the possibility that these individuals would show up at our designated ports of entry.”
Queensborough Community College Professor of History Jeff Hall has written about the history of prisons in the North Country. He says while Dannemora’s maximum security prison has a solid history over the last century and a half, this escape exposes significant security lapses. “If we look at the pictures of that manhole cover in the street: no surveillance cameras on the streets. That really surprised me that they would not have surveillance technology in the surrounding area. The prison’s powerhouse, its electrical station, is not actually behind the wall. It’s actually not that far from where that manhole cover was found. So it’s surprising that there isn’t surveillance technology in the immediate surrounding area of the prison. It’s something I think they’re going to have to think about installing.”
This is the first escape from the maximum security block of Clinton Correctional since it was built in 1845.