Joyce Mitchell: Prison Worker Who Helped Murderers Escape Sentenced To Seven Years

Joyce Mitchell, the prison worker who this summer helped two convicted murderers escape from an upstate New York prison, was sentenced Monday to up to seven years for her role in the escape, NBC News is reporting.

Appearing before Clinton County (New York) Court Judge Kevin Ryan for her sentencing, a tearful Mitchell, 51, begged the judge for leniency.

“If I could take it all back I would. I live with regret every day and will for the rest of my life.”

In July, Mitchell pleaded guilty to promoting prison contraband in the first degree, as part of a plot to help two convicted murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, escape from the maximum-security prison on June 6. The deal allowed her to avoid charges that she was allegedly plotting to have her husband, Lyle Mitchell, killed (Lyle, for his part, stands by his wife and says he will wait for her to serve her sentence), as well as charges for sexual contact Joyce may have had with the murderers. Under the plea deal, Joyce would serve no fewer than two and three years, and no fewer than seven years. Although the sentence was agreed to at a plea deal Mitchell entered in July, it didn’t become official until Judge Ryan’s sentence, handed down Monday.

Richard Matt, a career criminal with a history of murders, escapes, and attempted escapes under his belt, eventually wound up at Clinton Correctional Facility, where Joyce Mitchell worked as a seamstress. Matt was serving 25 years to life for the 1997 murder of William Rickerson, according to Fox News. Matt had killed the 72-year-old man with his bare hand and then dismembered the body.

Joyce Mitchell
Richard Matt, one of two convicted murderers Joyce Mitchell helped escape from prison.

Another inmate, David Sweat, was serving life without the possibility of parole for the 2002 murder of Deputy Kevin Tarsia of the Broome County Sheriff’s Office. Sweat and two other accomplices shot and killed the deputy, and ran over him with their car, after he caught the three transporting stolen guns.

Joyce Mitchell
David Sweat, the second of two murderers Joyce Mitchell helped escape from prison.

Authorities said the two men befriended Mitchell and, possibly with the help of other guards, conspired to help Matt and Sweat escape from prison. Mitchell supplied the murderers with drill beats and hacksaws, smuggled in via frozen meat, which the men then used to break out of their cells and into a catwalk between the cell block walls, according to KABC (Los Angeles). From there, they crawled through a steam pipe and then out to freedom via a manhole cover on a street near the prison.

Mitchell would later admit that she was supposed to meet the escaped convicts at the manhole, and then they would use the vehicle to escape to Mexico. However, Mitchell got cold feet and backed out, forcing the men to instead escape into the thick woods of upstate New York. On the day of their escape, Mitchell had a panic attack and was being treated at a hospital.

In a jailhouse interview with the Today show, Mitchell insisted that she backed out because she believed Matt and Sweat were going to kill her and her husband.

“[Matt] was gonna kill Lyle.And I couldn’t let him kill my husband.”

During the next three weeks, thousands of law enforcement personnel scoured the woods of upstate New York looking for the two murderers that Mitchell helped escape. Matt was eventually shot dead by border patrol agents, and Sweat was captured two days later. He remains in solitary confinement to this day.

At Mitchell’s sentencing, Judge Ryan noted that he had received letters from the public asking him to sentence her as harshly as possible. He also suggested that, after her release, he may require Mitchell to wear an electronic monitoring device for the rest of her life.

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[Images courtesy of Getty Images/Pool, Wikimedia Commons, Getty Images/Handout]