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N.Y. prison escapee fatally shot by police, official says

Convicted murderer Richard Matt was killed Friday afternoon some 30 miles from the Clinton Correctional Facility. David Sweat, the second escapee, remains on the loose.

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Escaped convict Richard Matt, 48, is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained released by the New York State Police. Matt, who escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility with David Sweat on June 6, has been shot by law enforcement officials, according to news reports.

New York State Police/REUTERS

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One of two convicted murderers who staged a brazen escape from an upstate maximum-security prison three weeks ago was shot and killed Friday in a wooded area about 30 miles from the prison, and the other is on the run, an official told The Associated Press.

An official with knowledge of the manhunt said Richard Matt was killed and David Sweat is still on the run. The official wasn't authorized to talk about the development publicly and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.

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Matt was spotted by an officer at 3:45 p.m. in a heavily wooded area in Malone, the focus of the search in recent days, state police said. Authorities haven't revealed details of what led to the shooting.

Police have blocked off roads in the area, which is about 30 miles west of the Clinton Correctional Facility. Officers are trucking in floodlights to where Sweat is believed to be, not far from where Matt was killed.

State Police Maj. Charles Guess said earlier Friday that the search area had shifted slightly northwest after investigators found evidence left behind by the escapees. Items were found Thursday at a cabin and Friday morning in a field, both in Malone, he said.

Matt and Sweat used power tools to saw through a steel cell wall and several steel steam pipes, bashed a hole through a 2-foot-thick brick wall, squirmed through pipes and escaped early June 6 from the prison in Dannemora, near the Canadian border.

Sweat was serving a sentence of life without parole in the killing of a sheriff's deputy in Broome County in 2002. Matt was serving 25 years to life for the killing and dismembering of his former boss. They were added to the U.S. Marshals Service's 15 Most Wanted fugitives list two weeks after getting away.

The search for the escaped killers was initially concentrated around the prison and a rural community where search dogs had caught the scent of both men. The search had since been expanded to neighboring counties, and, while authorities said there was no evidence the men had gotten out of the general area, they conceded they could have been almost anywhere.

A civilian worker at the prison was charged with helping the killers flee by giving them hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools.

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Prosecutors said Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who got close to the men while working with them, had agreed to be their getaway driver but backed out because she felt guilty for participating. Mitchell pleaded not guilty June 15 to charges including felony promoting prison contraband.

Authorities said the men had filled their beds in their adjacent cells with clothes to make it appear they were sleeping when guards made overnight rounds. On a cut steam pipe, the prisoners left a taunting note containing a crude caricature of an Asian face and the words "Have a nice day."

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said they apparently used tools stored by prison contractors, taking care to return them to their toolboxes after each night's work.

Authorities also said Mitchell had discussed killing her husband, Lyle Mitchell, as part of the plot.

On June 24, authorities charged Clinton correction officer Gene Palmer with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct. Officials said he gave the two prisoners the frozen hamburger meat Joyce Mitchell had used to hide the tools she smuggled to Sweat and Matt. Palmer's attorney said he had no knowledge that the meat contained hacksaw blades, a bit and a screwdriver.

Dannemora, built in 1845, occupies just over 1 square mile within the northern reaches of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and is surrounded by forest and farmland. The stark white perimeter wall of the prison, topped with guard towers, borders a main street in the village's business district.

The escape was the first in history from Clinton Correctional's maximum-security portion. In July 2003, two convicted murderers used tools from a carpentry shop at Elmira Correctional Facility to dig a hole in the roof of their cell and a rope of bedsheets to go over the wall. They were captured within three days, and a subsequent state investigation cited lax inmate supervision, poor tool control and incomplete cell searches.