The Latest: Neighbor describes guard as friendly, quiet

AP News
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Posted: Jun 25, 2015 8:56 PM
The Latest: Neighbor describes guard as friendly, quiet

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — The latest on the hunt for two inmates who escaped from a maximum-security prison (all times local):

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8:50 p.m.

A neighbor of an upstate New York prison guard charged in connection with the escape of two killers says she doesn't believe "in a million years" he had anything to do with it.

Sandy O'Neill describes correction officer Gene Palmer as friendly and quiet. She says he was usually seen mowing his lawn or working around his house in Cadyville.

She says on the day of the prison breakout Palmer told her to lock her doors. She says Palmer told her the men were "bad."

Inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat broke out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on June 6. About 1,100 law enforcement officers are looking for them.

Authorities say Palmer delivered tools inside frozen meat to the inmates. His lawyer says he didn't know tools were hidden inside the meat.

A prison tailor shop employee also has been charged with helping the inmates break out.

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5:25 p.m.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says a state investigation into how two killers escaped from a maximum-security prison will look into whether reforms are needed.

Cuomo speaking to reporters at the state Capitol in Albany on Thursday said the inspector general's investigation into the prison break will determine whether there are lessons to learn.

Authorities say inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat cut through the steel wall at the back of their cells at Clinton Correctional Facility. They crawled down a catwalk, broke through a brick wall, cut their way into and out of a steam pipe and then emerged from a manhole outside the prison on June 6.

Cuomo wants to know how they got the tools and the time to undertake the "massive engineering task."

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4:45 p.m.

A court date has been rescheduled for a New York prison guard charged in connection with the escape of two murderers nearly three weeks ago.

Gene Palmer was set to be arraigned Thursday on charges of promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct. But the court date was rescheduled for Monday.

Palmer was released from jail on $25,000 bail after his arrest Wednesday night.

Palmer is the second Clinton Correctional Facility employee to be charged since Richard Matt and David Sweat broke out of the maximum-security prison in far northern New York on June 6. Prison tailor shop employee Joyce Mitchell is charged with helping them break out.

About 1,100 federal, state and local law enforcement officers continued with the search Thursday.

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2:45 p.m.

A Catholic summer camp in New York's Adirondacks has canceled its first week as a manhunt for two escaped murderers continues.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports (http://bit.ly/1GtKrmU) that the six-week camp program at Camp Guggenheim on Lower Saranac Lake was scheduled to start Sunday. Bishop Terry LaValley of the Diocese of Ogdensburg made the decision to cancel.

A spokeswoman for the diocese says the bishop is concerned about the safety of the children given that police are searching nearby woods for escaped prisoners Richard Matt and David Sweat.

Camp Guggenheim is about 25 miles south of Mountain View, where police believe the pair may have stayed as recently as Saturday.

The spokeswoman says police protection for the camp was unavailable because officers are needed for the search.

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1 p.m.

The veteran corrections officer charged in connection with the escape of two murderers from a New York prison once told an interviewer that the stress of working there could drive a person into alcoholism and suicide.

North Country Public Radio reports (http://n.pr/1CwgiBR) Gene Palmer talked to the upstate New York station in 2000 about what it's like to work at Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security state prison in Dannemora where he has worked since 1987.

Palmer told the interviewer: "With the money that they pay you, you'll go bald, you'll have high blood pressure, you'll become an alcoholic, you'll divorce, and then you'll kill yourself."

Palmer is charged in connection with David Sweat and Richard Matt's escape on June 6. His attorney says Palmer was tricked into smuggling tools and other contraband to the prisoners.

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10:55 a.m.

A New York state prison guard charged in connection with the escape of two murderers says he allowed one of the convicts access to an interior catwalk that the convicts later used to make their breakout.

Gene Palmer's statement to authorities investigating the escape says he let David Sweat get onto the catwalk located behind his and Richard Matt's adjacent cells at the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

Palmer said he gave tools to the inmates and Sweat used them to alter electrical boxes with circuits to the prisoners' cells.

The 57-year-old corrections officer says he did the inmates a favor in return for paintings by Matt and information on illegal activity by other inmates.

The convicts used power tools to cut their way out on June 6. The search for them is in its 20th day Thursday.

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8:50 a.m.

Court documents accuse the corrections officer charged in connection with the escape of two killers from a New York prison with providing the pair with a screwdriver and needle-nose pliers.

The documents released by prosecutors Wednesday night also say 57-year-old corrections officer Gene Palmer burned and buried paintings he received from inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat after the pair escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6.

Authorities charged Palmer on Wednesday night with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct.

Palmer's lawyer says he did not know Sweat and Matt were planning to escape and that he has been fully cooperating with authorities.

Palmer was put on administrative leave last week. He is free on $25,000 bail.

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6:30 a.m.

A New York state corrections officer charged in connection with the escape of two murderers from a maximum-security prison has bailed himself out of an upstate jail.

Officials at Clinton County Jail in Plattsburgh say 57-year-old Gene Palmer was released around 12:30 a.m. Thursday after using a credit card to pay his $25,000 bail.

Authorities charged Palmer on Wednesday night with promoting prison contraband, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct.

He works at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, where 35-year-old David Sweat and Richard Matt pulled off their daring escape June 6. They remain at large Thursday, which is Matt's 49th birthday.

Authorities say Palmer delivered tools inside frozen meat to the inmates. His lawyer says Palmer didn't know tools were hidden inside the meat.