The three-week manhunt for two escaped killers last month ended with one dead and the other recaptured, but the break-out has now officially put prison worker and escape accomplice Joyce Mitchell behind bars. On Tuesday, Mitchell pleaded guilty to helping Richard Matt and David Sweat, which included supplying saw blades and other tools used in the escape. That same day, The New York Times reported on released police statements that cast the prison tailor shop instructor as a swept victim wooed by the promise of love. If anything, Mitchell's story on the prison escape offers a sad look at how the 51-year-old quickly got in over her head.
The Times' retelling of Mitchell's statements, released to the newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act request, shed light on how the quiet married woman found herself in the escalating prison break scheme. "I was caught up in the fantasy," she told investigators. "I enjoyed the attention, the feeling both of them gave me, and the thought of a different life." After Mitchell entered her pleas Tuesday, her lawyer, Stephen Johnston, told reporters:
I think that to a certain extent, Matt got her to feeling good about herself, better than she had for a period of time, and she was swept off her feet a bit. ... And then when she realized who she was dealing with, everything changed.
While Mitchell was friendly with both men, who had both worked in her tailor shop, she admitted to falling for Matt (pictured right). According to the Times, she told investigators she regularly reached out to Matt's daughter on his behalf and would bring small gifts of food — cookies, brownies, pepper — to the convicted murderer.
But the requests quickly became more dangerous. One day, Matt asked for glasses with lights attached to them. Then there was a screwdriver bit, which she obliged after a clandestine open-mouth kiss. In May, Matt asked for oral sex and hacksaw blades. She gave both. She also provided Sweat with dirty photos, though she denied ever having any kind of sexual contact with him.
Only after she noticed that Matt kept coming to work tired did Mitchell learn the prisoners' true plan. According to her statements, Mitchell was promised a life away from her own for her help as the men's getaway driver. But as you know, she never went through with the plan. Mitchell backed out at the last minute in the men's elaborate plot and instead went to the hospital for a serious case of nerves. Authorities arrested her soon after. Three weeks later and a statewide manhunt, Matt was dead and Sweat was captured.
The lurid account can be read in full at the Times' website, and it's worth a look. While Mitchell's case is definitely an extreme example, the man-seduces-woman tale is a familiar story, and her version just shows how easily it can all go wrong.
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