A New York state prison employee charged with helping a pair of convicted murderers carry out an elaborate escape has been moved from a cell in the facility where she worked to a county jail 150 miles away, authorities said.
Joyce Mitchell was transferred from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, where she worked as an industrial training supervisor, to Rensselaer County Jail near Albany.
She was moved Saturday as the massive manhunt for the two inmates entered its eighth day. More than 800 local, state and federal officers are searching thick woods, homes and other outposts near the maximum security facility, 20 miles south of the Canadian border, New York State Police said.
Prosecutors allege Mitchell facilitated the escape by providing Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, with tools such as chisels and hacksaw blades.
She was arraigned Friday on two counts of promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation. She pleaded not guilty and faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.
The Clinton County Sheriff's office said Mitchell was transferred to reduce tensions within the prison where she worked and in the surrounding village. Most of the families who live nearby have at least one member who is employed at the fortress-like prison, which houses about 3,000 prisoners.
Authorities did not say if Mitchell had provided any information about the men's possible whereabouts.
The focus of the search was on an area near a highway that leads from Dannemora to Plattsburgh, about 14 miles (22 km) away, state police spokesman Beau Duffy said on Saturday.
Sweat and Matt escaped the prison late on June 5 or early on June 6, using power tools to cut through a steel wall, maneuvering over a catwalk, drilling through bricks and crawling through a steam pipe to a manhole on the street.
The complexity of the escape had led to speculation the men had come up with a smooth getaway plan. Possible sightings have been reported from across the border in Canada to Philadelphia.
New York State Police Major Charles Guess told a news conference on Friday there was no evidence the men had made it far from the prison.
Duffy said the search was centering around a 5 square mile (13 sq km) region after a "very significant" lead this week. He urged anyone with information to call in their tips.
"We don't have any evidence they are outside the area. But we do have evidence they are in the area," he said, adding that the search would continue round the clock.
Mitchell, 51, had previously been investigated by prison officials after she was accused of having an improper relationship with Sweat, who was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff's deputy, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said.
There was not enough evidence to bring disciplinary action at that time, he said.
The breakout from the maximum security section of the Clinton Correctional Facility was the first in its 150-year history.