In an exclusive interview with NBC News' Today that aired Monday, Joyce Mitchell — the prison seamstress who helped two convicted murderers escape from a maximum security prison in New York — said that she's "not the monster people think" she is. Mitchell worked at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, near the Canadian border, for seven years. In the interview, a tearful Mitchell said that she was just a vulnerable, depressed woman who was taken advantage of by the two inmates. Quotes from Joyce Mitchell's interview show that she feels terrible for her part in the inmates' escape, and that she wants people to hear her side of the story.
Mitchell said that she worked closely with the inmates, and that she developed what she described as a friendship with Richard Matt (who was serving life for killing and dismembering his boss) and David Sweat (who was also doing life for shooting a sheriff's deputy 15 times). Mitchell said that the friendship developed into a flirtation with Matt, and that the two men started asking her to bring them things. She said that at first, these were small things, like brownies and cookies. But one day, they asked her to bring them a drill bit, saw blades, and a metal punch. Once the inmates escaped on June 6, there was a massive three-week manhunt, which ended with Matt being fatally shot by a law enforcement officer. Sweat was shot two days later, but he survived and was returned to prison.
In July, Mitchell plead guilty to criminal facilitation and promoting prison contraband for aiding the escape. She will be sentenced on Sept. 28, and faces up to seven years in prison. These quotes from her interview in Clinton County Jail, where she awaits sentencing, show that she regrets her part in the escape, but that she feared for her safety:
I did wrong. I deserve to be punished, but people need to know that I was only trying to save my family.
Mitchell told Matt Lauer that when co-workers told her that she was too nice to the inmates, she would back off a bit, but then she became "too comfortable" with Matt and Sweat. She said that her marriage with Lyle Mitchell, another prison worker, wasn't doing well, so she felt vulnerable and depressed. She said Matt and Sweat's attention "made her feel good":
I didn't feel like my husband loved me anymore, and I guess it was just me. I was going through a depression. And, I guess they saw my weakness, and that's how it all started.
After the escape, experts said that Mitchell's case shows just what happens when inmates "groom" prison workers in order to get closer to them, receive special treatment, or ask for favors. Mitchell said that Matt and Sweat started out asking her for cookies and brownies, until the day that they asked her for the materials they ended up using in their escape:
At first I'm like, 'I can't get you that.' At first they didn't tell me, and then after they did. It was because they were going to try to escape.
Mitchell says that by the time the two told her why they wanted the materials, she was in too deep. She said that Matt and Sweat had learned where her mother and older son lived, and they had become closer to other prison workers. Even more frightening, Mitchell said she had started a sexual relationship with Matt. Though she signed statements that said she took X-rated photos for Matt, Mitchell told Today that there was never any consensual sex between them. In fact, she cried as she described how Matt allegedly forced her to perform a sexual act on him:
There was never any actual sexual intercourse. Mr. Matt had grabbed me a couple of times and kissed me. And then there was one point where he ... wanted me to perform oral sex on him. And I said no. And when I said no, he grabbed my head and pushed me down.
Mitchell told police that she was supposed to meet the inmates and run away with them, and that the two were going to kill her husband Lyle after they escaped. But she says that she loved her husband too much, so she backed out on her part of the plan, which was to drive the men to freedom. Mitchell apologized for any harm she had caused:
I am so sorry for everything that everyone went through because of me. I never, never wanted this to ever happen. Never. I would take it all back, if I could. I'm not the monster that everybody thinks I am. I'm really not. I'm just somebody that got caught up in something that she couldn't get out of.
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