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Escapees may have eluded ‘perimeter,’ State Police say

The search for two escaped killers is focused on a 75-square-mile area in Franklin County, though authorities can’t be sure the pair has not gotten outside that area, State Police said Wednesday afternoon.

State Police Maj. Charles Guess was hesitant to call what authorities have set up a “perimeter,” but he said Richard Matt and David Sweat “could have made it out before law enforcement encircled” the area.

“It’s entirely possible” they slipped out from the area where the search is focused, Guess said.

Authorities – who said they are continuing to search nationwide – said it’s also possible the pair may have armed themselves, possibly by taking a gun from one of the many cabins in the area.

Every cabin probably has one or more weapons in it, but authorities don’t have evidence that a particular shotgun is missing, Guess said in response to a question at an afternoon news conference in Cadyville.

The pair could have moved 10 miles a day if their travel was unimpeded, though that wasn’t likely given the type of terrain in the area, including dense forest with mountains, hills and ravines.

More than 2,200 leads have been generated so far in the search, Guess said.

Watch the 10-minute news conference here.

As the search entered its 19th day, authorities on Wednesday morning expanded their efforts in Franklin County, just to the west of Clinton Correctional Facility, the Plattsburgh Press-Republican reported.

Search teams have moved into the Town of Malone, but remain focused in the Town of Bellmont, the Press-Republican reported Wednesday morning.

The New York Times has posted two graphics detailing the terrain Matt and Sweat faced after their escape, as well as areas in the state where officials have searched.

There were 1,000 law enforcement officers searching in Franklin County as of Tuesday, two days after DNA tests confirmed Matt and Sweat were at a cabin in Owls Head, a hamlet in the Town of Bellmont.

Matt, who is from the City of Tonawanda, and Sweat escaped from the maximum security prison in Dannemora, Clinton County, on June 6.

Joyce Mitchell, a prison employee who has been charged with helping the escapees, slipped some of the tools into the prison by hiding them in hamburger meat, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wiley has said.

The attorney for Gene Palmer, the prison guard who’s been suspended in connection with the escape, has said his client had no prior knowledge the escapees were planning to escape, according to the Press-Republican.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com