Fugitive hunt expands to Vt.

Michelle Monroe

By Michelle Monroe

Executive Editor

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ST. ALBANS — The St. Albans Police Dept. (SAPD) is stepping up patrols in St. Albans Bay in response to the escape of two convicted murderers from a correctional facility in northern New York State.

“We’ve already had extra patrols down at the bay, checking camps both on feet and in cars,” said Lt. Ron Hoague of the SAPD said late this morning.

Hoague also said he believed a search based on a tip earlier today had been called off on Burton’s Island.

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Wednesday that investigators have learned two escaped New York convicts had discussed coming to Vermont after their escape.

“If any of the residents see anything suspicious, they’re encouraged to call us,” said Hoague, adding that at least two officers are being sent to respond to all calls of suspicious behavior that might be connected to the escape.

Shumlin held a joint press conference with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Shumlin was to hold a press conference in Vermont today to further discuss the situation.

Police have been searching for the two convicted murderers (see accompanying report), David Sweat and Richard Matt, since Saturday when their escape from the Dannemora facility was discovered.

“We have information that suggests they thought New York was going to be hot. Vermont would be cooler, in terms of law enforcement and that a camp in Vermont might be a better place to be. We do not,” said Shumlin

He and other officials would not say how authorities learned that information.

“We have no indication that the individuals are in Vermont, but given this new information we are taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of Vermonters,” Shumlin. “Everyone should be vigilant, and report suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

Vermont State Police (VSP) announced they have taken multiple measures to prevent the entry of Sweat and Matt into Vermont:

  • A VSP detective is currently assigned to the command post in New York and is keeping VSP informed about the investigation.
  • VSP Criminal Division will disseminate flyers to go out through local troopers to private campgrounds. VSP Bureau of Criminal Investigation is contacting the Vermont Department of Forest and Parks to disseminate these flyers to all state campgrounds.
  • The VSP Tactical Team is ready to respond anywhere in the state based upon any potential sightings.
  • If a situation develops anywhere in Vermont indicating the presence of the escapees, all available Vermont State troopers statewide will respond to the scene.
  • VSP Marine Patrol is deployed on Lake Champlain from our St Albans, Williston, and New Haven barracks.
  • Directed patrols are occurring along the Lake Champlain border, checking on seasonal residences and camps.
  • Any suspicious person(s), camp burglaries, or trespass incidents reported will have an increased response.

Cuomo urged the people of Vermont to be on the alert and report anything suspicious, warning: “Trust me, these men are nothing to be trifled with.”

Also involved in the search are Border Patrol officers from the Swanton Sector, confirmed top supervisor John Pfeifer this morning. The Swanton Sector includes New York State from the Vermont border west to Ogdensburg, an area that include Dannemora.

Since the escape was discovered, the Border Patrol has provided manpower and canine units to assist with the search, he said. “We have a very robust canine program,” said Pfeifer.

The canine units are deployed at New York State police checkpoints. Unlike many police dogs, which are trained to detect drugs and other contraband, the Border Patrol’s dogs are trained to detect human beings, explained Pfeifer. Thus, the dogs would be able to detect concealed people.

Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the ports between the U.S. and Canada are also searching vehicles exiting the U.S. for the fugitives, Pfeifer said.