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New York escapee David Sweat tells DA he started making escape in January

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Posted at 2:30 PM, Jun 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-30 16:59:29-04

As he sits in Albany Medical Center in fair condition, former escapee David Sweat is talking to prosecutors about how he made his escape out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

Up until now, prosecutors believed Sweat and fellow prisoner Richard Matt had used power tools to escape the facility. Authorities said the pair used the tools to cut through steel walls in the maximum-security prison and then cut through a steam pipe to shimmy to freedom.

But Sweat tells a different story. He says he did not use power tools - only a hacksaw blade. Sweat told the Clinton County DA that he started cutting through the steel cellblock in January and had access to a catwalk area in the prison bowels for several weeks before escaping.

Authorities had thought Sweat and Matt pick the lock of a contractor's tool box to gain access to additional tools to allow them to break out of the prison.

Sweat is currently listed in fair condition at Albany Medical Center, where he was taken after being shot twice when he was captured on Sunday in Constable, one mile away from the Canadian border. He is expected to be in the hospital for at least a few more days.

ABC News reports Sweat told prosecutors of two times he was almost caught during his time on the run.

The first was when he and Matt were still together and three people to check on a cabin. He said he and Matt were close enough that they could overhear the trio's conversation and stayed hidden until they left.

In the second instance, Sweat was by himself and he says he was in a hunting tree stand when an officer walked right past him.

So far, 13 prison employees have been placed on leave as part of the ongoing investigation into the escape. One of those workers and a civilian employee are facing charges.

There is more fallout from the escape of two inmates from the Clinton Correctional Facility. Three members of the executive team and nine members of the security staff have been placed on administrative leave.

Twelve of those employees were placed on leave Tuesday, including the prison's superintendent and deputy superintendent.

Gene Palmer, 57, is the corrections officer who is facing charges. He has been charged with promoting prison contraband, two counts of tampering with physical evidence and one count of official misconduct.

A woman who worked at the prison in the tailor shop, Joyce Mitchell, was charged with helping the two inmates escaped. Mitchell allegedly provided the pair with tools like hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit that were secreted into the prison in frozen hamburger meat.

Mitchell is being held on charges of first degree promoting prison contraband, a class D felony, and fourth degree criminal facilitation, a class A misdemeanor.

David Sweat was shot twice while being captured Sunday, two days before Richard Matt was spotted by a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team, who opened fire and shot Matt three times in the head.

Sweat had been on the run for 23 days before being spotted walking Sunday afternoon on Coveytown Road in the Town of Constable. Sgt. Jay Cook, a 21-year veteran of the force, approached Sweat, who took off running, and as Sweat neared a tree line Cook opened fire, hitting Sweat twice in the torso.

Senator Charles Schumer, who was briefed on the situation, says Sweat was coughing up blood as he was taken to the hospital. Sweat was originally in critical condition but a spokesman for Albany Medical Center says Sweat is now in serious but stable condition and Sweat did not need to undergo surgery.

Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke Monday morning about the escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat. He told CNN on Monday morning that Sweat had a bag containing maps, tools, bug repellent and Pop Tarts when he was shot twice by Sgt. Cook.

Cuomo says Sweat and Matt split up five days ago. He says Matt had blisters on his feet and Sweat felt his older escape partner was slowing him down. Matt was shot and killed Friday in the Town of Malone after he was spotted in the woods by a U.S. Border Patrol tactical team.

An autopsy revealed Matt had been shot in the head three times. After he was shot and killed, 7 Eyewitness News spoke to Matt's half-brother, who said, "I mean, it might sound bad, but I was in a way hoping this was the outcome."

Cuomo said Sweat and Matt had originally planned to go to Mexico after they were picked up by prison worker Joyce Mitchell. Mitchell, who is facing charges, got cold feet because the governor says the pair planned to kill her husband. When Mitchell didn't show up, the pair instead headed towards Canada.

Matt and Sweat used power tools to cut through steel walls and escape from the maximum-security prison near the Canadian border in "a really elaborate, sophisticated operation" that involved shimmying through a steam pipe.

Police revealed Sunday evening that the prisoners used the tools provided by Mitchell to get out of their cells, then they managed to pick the lock of a contractor's tool box to gain access to additional tools to allow them to break out of the prison.

Richard Matt killed William Rickerson in December 1997 after abducting the 76-year-old food broker from his Niagara County home. Police said Matt had been fired from a warehouse owned by Rickerson a few weeks before the killing.

Parts of Rickerson's body were found in the Niagara River in early 1998. Police issued an arrest warrant for Matt soon afterward, but he had fled to Mexico.

While in Mexico, he killed a man outside a bar in Matamoros. He served nine years in prison before being returned to the U.S. in 2007. Matt was convicted of Rickerson's murder the following year and is serving 25 years to life for three counts of murder, three counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery. He had been at the jail since July 2008.

David Sweat was one of three men arrested after 36-year-old Deputy Kevin Tarsia of the Broome County Sheriff's Office was fatally shot on the Fourth of July in 2002 in the town of Kirkwood, near the New York-Pennsylvania border outside Binghamton.

Police said the men had stolen rifles and handguns from a fireworks store just across the border in Pennsylvania by ramming a pickup truck into the building.

Tarsia later confronted the men in a park in Kirkwood, his hometown. Police said Sweat and another man fatally shot the deputy. Sweat and the accomplice pleaded guilty a year after the killing to first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He had been at the jail since October 2003.