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Residents In Escapee Search Area Look To The Future

Residents within a 50-mile radius of the Clinton Correctional facility have spent much of the month of June on edge.  Murderers David Sweat and Richard Matt were the first to escape from the maximum security portion of the prison, and despite thousands of searchers, the pair evaded capture for days and then weeks. But their bout for freedom ended this weekend and residents of the area are looking forward to getting back to normal.

With only a few words on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo let the North Country know things could return to  normal.   “The nightmare is finally over.”

These were words Malone resident Bonnie Curtain had been waiting to hear.   “It’s been tough on everybody in this area because nobody knows where they were going and so everybody’s been on alert and edgy.”  

As of Friday, Matt was dead. By Sunday, Sweat was shot and captured.

Jo Eastman came to see the governor announce Sweat’s capture — just to hear for herself that that it was true.   “Going to be able to sleep tonight. It’s been really scary. I’m glad to see all the police have been around looking for them and I’m so happy that they finally got caught without anybody else getting hurt, that was the main thing.”

While relieved residents are returning to their homes — uncharacteristically locked in recent weeks — and tactical teams are withdrawing from the area, Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill expects remnants of the fugitives’ caper will be discovered over the coming months.   “I anticipate future camp burglaries coming in in camps that they’ve broken into and people just haven’t opened those camps up yet.  A lot of that’s going to happen in the course of the next week or so, with the Fourth of July and a lot of family reunions and stuff coming in. Some of those may not happen until September or October when people come and open up their hunting camps. So there’s going to be some aftermath.”

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey was at the Clinton Correctional facility Friday afternoon.  She hopes people do not rush to judgment as the focus shifts to investigating how the fugitives escaped.  “Those of us who have people working for us expect them to do their jobs well. And those guys and ladies that I spoke to the other day said those few who did not certainly should be punished. You know the Assembly.  How many time has somebody gone out in handcuffs and I get 300 emails saying you’re all crooks. So I know what it feels like and that’s what I looked them in the eye and said. I know what it is to be painted with that same brush.  98-99 percent of them are dedicated hard working state employees and they do a tough, tough job every day when they go behind those walls to go to work.  I want the community to remember that.”

Hundreds of law enforcement searchers began to withdraw from the region Sunday evening, passing Thank You signs attached to mailboxes and garages on rural roads.  Although the physical danger is over, the North Country will consider the ramifications of the escape for some time.  Governor Cuomo noted Sunday that officials must still determine if anyone else was involved.  “We have two people who have been arrested for facilitation or accomplices in this situation.  But the investigation’s not over. Now that we have Mr. Sweat it gives us the opportunity to have some more questions and provide more facts on the overall situation.  Anyone who we find who was culpable and guilty of cooperating in this escape will be fully prosecuted.  We will also be conducting an investigation into the systems in that prison. So there are a lot of questions to be answered.”

Matt was killed by a Border Patrol tactical team Friday. Sunday, Sweat was shot twice as he fled from a state trooper. Albany Medical Center says Monday Sweat is in serious condition but did not need surgery.

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