A Sheriff armed with a shotgun stands in front of a home on Trudeau Road during a manhunt for two escaped murderers in Cadyville, New York on June 12, 2015. The two prisoners David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped the maximum-security prison in Dannemora, New York early on June 6 and have not bee seen since. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
DANNEMORA, N.Y., June 13 (UPI) -- An employee of New York state's Clinton Correctional Facility, who allegedly helped two convicted killers escape from the maximum security prison, pleaded not guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges Friday night.
Joyce Mitchell, 51, is accused of assisting David Sweat and Richard Matt depart the prison last weekend -- by smuggling "contraband" into the facility, authorities said.
Friday evening, she pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting prison contraband, a felony, and criminal facilitation, a misdemeanor. She has also been suspended from her prison job without pay, pending the outcome of the case.
She was jailed at the very same facility the prisoners escaped from on a $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond, and has another court appearance scheduled for Monday. If convicted on both counts, Mitchell faces up to eight years in prison.
Investigators said Mitchell's husband, who also works at the prison, is under scrutiny in this case, USA Today reported Friday. However, he has not been charged and has not been taken into custody.
"This is one large piece of the puzzle in our quest to find these two escaped murderers," New York State Police Maj. Charles Guess said at a news conference late Friday.
During the briefing, Maj. Guess made a direct statement to the convicted murderers.
"We have got to assume they are cold, wet, tired and hungry," he said. "We have a message for David Sweat and Richard Matt: We're coming for you and we will not stop until you are caught."
Authorities said no confirmed sightings of the men have yet been reported, as more than 800 officers from multiple agencies continue their manhunt in the U.S. Northeast, with the assistance of police dogs and helicopters.
NBC News, citing court documents, reported that Mitchell is accused of smuggling hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit to the pair to aid in their escape Saturday -- items that she had purchased over the last few months.
The Albany Times Union reported that she had also given them a cellphone.
Court documents say Mitchell brought the items into the prison on May 1 -- five weeks before the pair's escape.
Mitchell was also supposed to drive the escaped inmates away from the area in a getaway vehicle, but she didn't show up, authorities said.
Authorities said Mitchell knows the convicts from working with them in the prison's tailor shop, where she's been a supervisor for seven years. Wylie said she has so far been "extremely cooperative" with investigators -- although her relatives have denied any wrongdoing on her part.
Authorities said the men cut through their cell walls Saturday, including a steel plate and a 24-inch steam pipe and surfaced off the prison's grounds through a manhole.
NBC News reported Thursday that a source close to the investigation said Mitchell's motive to aid in the escape was driven by an attraction to Matt -- to the point that "she thought it was love" with him.
The ongoing manhunt has left many northern New York residents restricted to their homes for days, raising fears across the area -- including neighboring Vermont and Canada.
Late Wednesday, police temporarily shut down a highway near the prison to check passing motorists and vehicles, but did not turn up any sign of the escapees.
Local schools have also been closed and residents are being told to keep alert, as law enforcement officers pursue the escapees through the thick forest and swamplands around the facility. Police believe they have the men contained between Dannemora and Plattsburgh, a 15-mile area 20 miles from the Canadian border.
Matt had been serving 25 years to life for kidnapping, mutilating and killing a former boss in 1997. Sweat was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff's deputy.
Police have offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Matt and Sweat -- $50,000 for each.