CADYVILLE, N.Y. (Reuters) - The 2-week-old search for two escaped murderers focused on a rural area about 20 miles away from the upstate New York prison they fled, authorities said on Monday, after evidence reportedly showed the pair had been inside a burglarized cabin.
CNN, citing an unidentified law enforcement source, said the escapees’ DNA was found on items in a cabin in Owls Head, New York.
New York State Police said items from the cabin were being tested for DNA, but at a midday news conference, Major Charles Guess would not confirm the DNA of the two convicts had been found.
He said he did not want to jeopardize the investigation.
“It’s a confirmed lead for us,” Guess said.
Convicted murderers Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 35, were discovered missing from the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, early on June 6.
The two inmates cut through cell walls, crawled through a steam pipe and climbed out a manhole to escape, officials said.
A witness reported seeing someone running into a wooded area over the weekend near the cabin that had been broken into, CNN reported.
Guess, at the news conference in Cadyville, New York, said police had followed up on 2,000 leads in the case.
He said there was no evidence the escapees were getting help from anyone while they were on the run but said police had not ruled it out.
Joyce Mitchell, 51, who worked as a training supervisor in the prison’s tailor shop, has been charged with helping the inmates escape by providing them with tools.
A Clinton corrections officer identified as Gene Palmer has been suspended in connection with the escape.
Police cautioned seasonal camp owners in the rural area to be on the lookout for anything that seemed out of place or suspicious.
During the weekend, the search had been focused about 280 miles (450 km) southwest of the prison, near the Pennsylvania border, after a possible sighting was reported in the town of Friendship, New York.
Guess said the search near Friendship had ended and the area had been declared clear.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Bill Trott and Jeffrey Benkoe