The New York State prison worker accused of helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum-security facility got "in too deep" to the inmates' plot to break free, and she was later threatened when she wanted to back out of the plan, her husband said Tuesday.
Lyle Mitchell told NBC's "Today" show that if his wife had gone through with David Sweat and Richard Matt's plan for her to pick them up in the couple's Jeep after the June 6 escape, he's "absolutely 100 percent" sure the convicts would have killed them. He says the inmates offered to give her pills that would have knocked him out.
Sweat, 35, and Matt, 48, remained at large Tuesday, with hundreds of police searching an area 20 miles west of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Roadblocks were in place around the remote hamlets of Owls Head and Mountain View.
Joyce Mitchell, 51, has pleaded not guilty to colluding with the inmates and bringing them contraband. She was being held in a county jail. Mitchell said he doesn't know what to think at this point -- or whether he can stand by his wife.
"Do I still love her? Yes. Am I mad? Yes," he told host Matt Lauer. "How can she do this? How can she do this to our kids?"
If she had shown up with the vehicle, the convicts would have killed her "within a half-hour," said the husband, who isn't suspected of aiding the escape.
Lyle Mitchell, who also works at the prison, said his wife denied having a sexual relationship with either inmate, though she was manipulated by their "attention." She realized things had gotten "out of hand" when the pair began threatening to kill or hurt him, he said. "When it came down to her hurting me, that's when she said something was wrong," he said. "She said she was in too deep, she didn't know how to get out of it."
She was at a hospital, complaining of chest pains, when she was supposed to pick up the escapees, her husband said.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told the Los Angeles Times that Joyce Mitchell smuggled tools to Matt and Sweat by freezing them in raw hamburger meat. She hid hacksaw blades, drill bits and a hole punch in the meat before bringing it into the prison, then stored it in the refrigerator of the tailor shop where she worked, Wylie said.
A correction officer, Gene Palmer, then retrieved the meat from Mitchell and delivered it to Matt and Sweat in their cells, Wylie said. It's unclear why Palmer would have made the deliveries, which Wylie said were done under Matt's direction.
Palmer, on administrative leave since last week, passed polygraph tests and has not been charged with any crime, Wylie said. Mitchell told investigators she doesn't believe Palmer knew about the tools hidden in the ground beef, Wylie said. Authorities are investigating why the food did not go through metal detectors, Wylie said.