Sweep in small town for 2 escaped killers comes up empty

(AP) -- Reports of two men walking along a road brought hundreds of law enforcement officers to a small town in the Adirondack foothills for a sweep that seemingly turned up no signs of two killers who escaped from a maximum-security prison, but state police said leads continued to be generated and there would be an increased police presence in the area.

The hunt that began over the weekend focused Tuesday on Willsboro, close to Lake Champlain, after residents reported seeing a couple of men walking on a road late Monday during a driving rainstorm.

Authorities have fielded numerous tips since the breakout Saturday from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, about 20 miles from the Canadian border, but appeared to have focused most on this one.

Searchers walked shoulder-to-shoulder, wearing bulletproof vests and carrying sidearms as they went through hilly woods, fields and swamps, checking every home, garage, shed and outbuilding, then yelling, "Clear!" when there were no signs of the inmates.

By early evening, it appeared the sweep had come up empty, and there was no confirmation from police that the escaped convicts had been there. New York State Police issued a statement Tuesday saying that more than 400 corrections and other law enforcement officers were in the area and planned to go door to door, checking homes and seasonal camps.

David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, cut through a steel wall, broke through bricks and crawled through a steam pipe before emerging through a manhole outside the prison grounds.

They were discovered missing early Saturday after stuffing their beds with clothes to fool guards on their rounds and leaving behind a taunting note: "Have a nice day."

There was speculation that the inmates had arranged for someone to pick them up outside the prison and were long gone from the area, even Canada or as far as Mexico.

The escape from the 3,000-inmate state prison has raised suspicions the men had help on the inside.

Investigators have been questioning prison workers and outside contractors to try to find out who may have supplied the power tools. Contractors have been doing extensive renovations at the 170-year-old prison, a hulking, fortress-like structure that looms over Dannemora's main street.

A $100,000 reward has been posted for information leading to the men's capture.

Sweat was convicted in the 2002 killing of a sheriff's deputy and was doing life without parole. Matt was serving 25 years to life for kidnapping and dismembering his boss in 1997.

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Virtanen reported from Albany. Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Jake Pearson and Verena Dobnik in New York City contributed to this report.

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