(Reuters) - The husband of a female prison worker charged with helping two New York inmates escape spoke out on Tuesday, the 18th day of a massive manhunt, saying the break-out plan called for her to slip him knockout pills.
A force of 1,000 law enforcement officers focused the search for murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat in eastern Franklin County, about 20 miles from Clinton Correctional Facility, said New York State Police spokesman Beau Duffy.
The hunt centered on the town of Bellmont, near a cabin where authorities during the weekend found evidence that reportedly showed the escapees had been inside.
They were discovered missing from the maximum-security facility in Dannemora, New York, on June 6.
Lyle Mitchell, whose wife, Joyce Mitchell, admitted she helped the convicts, said on NBC's "Today" show that the men gave her pills to knock him out so that she could slip away and drive their getaway car. At that point, she knew things had gone too far, Mitchell said.
"She said: 'I love my husband, I am not hurtin' him,'" Mitchell told NBC in his first media interview, which aired on Tuesday. "She said, 'Then I knew I was over my head. I can't do this.'"
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie told reporters last week that she had discussed a plan with the men to kill her husband, who also worked at the prison.
Mitchell has visited his wife in jail, where she is being held on charges she supplied hacksaw blades that allowed Sweat and Matt to cut through their cell walls, slither through a steam pipe and emerge from a manhole outside the prison walls.
He said his wife denied having sex with either of the convicts, saying Matt tried to kiss her but she resisted his advances.
Asked if he supported his wife, Mitchell said, "As of right now I don't know what to think," adding that he had not yet decided whether he would testify against her in court.
"Do I still love her? Yes. Am I mad? Yes. How could she do this? How could she do this to our kids?" Mitchell told NBC News.
Joyce Mitchell, 51, who worked as a training supervisor in the prison's tailor shop, has pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation.
If convicted, she could face up to eight years in prison.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Ellen Wulfhorst and Bill Trott; Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington)