Home / National News / Inside Joyce Mitchell's Relationships with Escaped Prisoners and Fantasy of a New Life


(PLATTSBURGH, N.Y.) —  Prison worker Joyce Mitchell poured her heart out to investigators about her relationships with the convicted murderers she helped escape from an upstate New York prison, detailing her increasing sexual contact with one of them and her deepening involvement in the plot over time, according to a series of statements she made to police.

In the statements, obtained by ABC News, Mitchell, who pleaded guilty Tuesday, details her dreams of running off into the sunset with the men, only to have the fantasy unravel when she panicked on the night of the escape.

“I enjoyed the attention, the feeling both of them gave me, and the thought of a different life,” she said in one of the three statements she gave investigators in the week following the escape.

Her relationship with one of the men, Richard Matt, began with seemingly innocent requests for help, but soon escalated into sexual contact, she said, including sending him nude photos to give to the other inmate, David Sweat, she said in the statements.

Matt and Sweat escaped from the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora in a dramatic “Shawshank Redemption”-style breakout. Investigators caught up to the men after weeks on the lam and shot and killed Matt. Sweat was shot and captured.

Matt only began the relationship with Mitchell, who is married, after he hatched his escape plan from Clinton Correctional Facility with fellow convicted murderer David Sweat, the statements said.

Mitchell was investigated by jail officials for allegedly having relations with Sweat, but not enough evidence was found to continue the investigation.

The statements, obtained by ABC News, offer the first detailed account of the incident in Mitchell’s own words.

Mitchell, who worked in the prison tailor shop, explained she had sexual contact with Matt but insisted that she and Sweat had never had any sexual contact.

She said that Matt made her “feel special” and she started doing favors for him. First, she called Matt’s daughter for him and then helped him get a hold of items he couldn’t get for himself, including two pairs of glasses with lights on them, a screw driver bit, and two hacksaw blades.

At one point at the end of April 2015, Mitchell said she was alone with Matt in the prison tailor shop where she worked when he “grabbed me and kissed me,” the statement said.

“It startled me,” she said. “He kissed me with an open mouth kiss.” The sexual request from Matt escalated from there over time and Mitchell obliged, she told investigators.

Mitchell told investigators how she started bringing contraband into the prison around that time, including smuggled in frozen hamburger meat, allegedly with the unwitting help of Correction Officer Gene Palmer.

“I originally brought in two blades, by bending them in half and putting them in some hamburger, which I then put in the freezer,” she told investigators, according to the statements.

“I brought the frozen hamburger into work and put it in the freezer where I work. Inmate Matt stated he would have Correctional Officer Palmer pick up the hamburger and bring it back to his cell.”

“The second time Inmate Matt asked me for hacksaw blades, he also asked for two chisels and a punch,” Mitchell said. She said she put the blades in the hamburger again, froze the meat and took it into the jail.

Mitchell said she left it in a freezer, and a few days later, the hamburger was gone.

“Matt said he had gotten the items, so I assume C.O. Palmer brought them to him,” Mitchell said, according to the statement.

Mitchell also said Matt gave her two pills to “drug my husband Lyle with.” Mitchell said she doesn’t know what the pills were, but that she took them home and flushed them down the toilet once police started interviewing her.

When recounting the night of the escape — June 5 — Mitchell said she had initially agreed to help Matt and Sweat escape and run away with them. But at the last minute, she panicked and decided she couldn’t go through with it because she loved her husband.

She said they were supposed to meet at midnight, and they were going to go somewhere 6-7 hours away, but she doesn’t remember where. Mitchell said the plan was for Matt to go off by himself and for Mitchell to be with Sweat.

Mitchell said she had agreed to help the prisoners because she believed she was “caught up in the fantasy”, and liked the attention the men paid to her and the thought of a different life.

Mitchell, 51, pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree promoting prison contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitation. She faces a prison sentence ranging from 2 1/3 years to 7 years.

She also agreed to cooperate with the investigation and give up her teaching certificate.

The judge said Mitchell, who wiped away tears while making the plea, could be released on $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond. Mitchell was wearing her wedding ring in court.

Mitchell’s attorney, Stephen Johnston, said Mitchell has been sobbing, anxious, depressed and remorseful since her arrest.

Johnston said Mitchell’s husband, Lyle, is also upset, but continues to support his wife. Johnston said Lyle Mitchell believed it was in his wife’s best interest to accept the plea deal.

“She realizes that she made a horrible mistake,” Johnston said at a news conference after Tuesday’s court hearing.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie agreed not to pursue other charges against Mitchell, including allegedly conspiring to murder her husband and sexual-related offenses, Wylie said.

Palmer, who was also arrested in connection with the escape, will face a grand jury next month. He has admitted providing the two inmates with certain items and access, but has denied knowing the men would escape.

Mitchell will be sentenced on Sept. 28.

ABC US News | World News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Recent posts in National News