Search for escaped prisoners stays intense at New York-Pennsylvania border

'We will search under every rock, behind every tree and structure' for escapees, N.Y. police official says

Hundreds of law enforcement officers are searching in New York’s Allegany County for two murderers who escaped a maximum-security prison more than two weeks ago, officials announced Sunday.

The response follows a Saturday tip from someone who reported seeing two men on a railroad track in the Allegany County town of Friendship who looked like Richard Matt and David Sweat. Matt, 48, and Sweat, 35, were discovered missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., on June 6.

“We will search under every rock, behind every tree and structure” until the area is secure, New York State Police Maj. Michael J. Cerretto said Sunday afternoon in a brief news conference.

About 300 law enforcement officers are conducting the search, which includes canine units, Cerretto said.

Officials have not confirmed that the men spotted Saturday were Matt and Sweat, Cerretto said, but the witness was credible. He refused to say whether there have been additional sightings this weekend.

The towns of Friendship and nearby Amity, which are the focus of the search, lie about 300 miles from the prison where, officials have said, Matt and Sweat used power tools to cut through their cell walls and maneuver through tunnels on their way to freedom.

Matt was serving a life sentence for torturing, killing and dismembering his former boss. Sweat was sentenced to life without parole for killing a Broome County sheriff’s deputy who discovered him moving stolen guns from one vehicle to another.

Police have received previous reports of sightings near Pennsylvania. On June 13, someone reported seeing two men walking near a rail yard in Erwin, N.Y. A day later, another person reported seeing Matt and Sweat walking toward the Pennsylvania border along County Route 115 in the neighboring town of Lindley.

Joyce Mitchell, a tailor who worked at the prison, was arrested June 12 on suspicion of colluding with the men to help them escape and bringing them contraband. She has pleaded not guilty.

The state of New York is offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of each inmate -- $100,000 in all. In addition, the U.S. Marshals Service is offering a reward of up to $25,000 each.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Katie Shepherd contributed to this report.

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