Capital Region has had its share of inmate escapes

The escape of two killers from the Clinton Correctional Facility over the weekend has put the focus
Law enforcement officers with bloodhounds stand guard at one of the entrances to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on Saturday.
Law enforcement officers with bloodhounds stand guard at one of the entrances to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on Saturday.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

The escape of two killers from the Clinton Correctional Facility over the weekend has put the focus on the North Country and the effort to find the convicts.

On the opposite side of the Adirondacks from the prison is the Capital Region, where local police officers and the general public are keeping an eye out for the two men, should they make it here.

“We have no actionable intelligence that says they’re coming this way, but we’re certainly prepared to do our part,” Colonie police spokesman Lt. Robert Winn said Monday about excapees David Sweat and Richard Matt.

Winn said members of his department on the southern end of the Northway handed out wanted posters to town hotels, motels and gas stations Saturday night.

While the local response to this prison break is so far muted, the Capital Region has seen its share of escapes and manhunts over the years.

The facility from which the two men escaped, commonly called Dannemora after the village where it’s located, is also home to multiple Capital Region killers and arsonists.

Schenectady County arsonist Steven Raucci is there. As is Albany County killer Christopher Porco.

Michael Briggs, who was sentenced in August 2014 to 30 years to life for killing former nun Mary Greco in Schenectady on New Year’s Day 2013, is there, too.

Local jails also have been the scenes of several escapes over the years.

One of the region’s highest-profile escapes in recent years came in February 2006 when Schenectady County Jail inmate Edwin Ortiz slipped through a weakened recreation yard fence to 19 hours of freedom.

Ortiz had been facing a lengthy prison term with life as the maximum for a robbery and drug binge that spanned three counties. Ortiz was hobbled in his escape, having to jump from a roof and severely spraining his ankle.

He was recaptured the next day and is now serving 18.5 years to life at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock.

Ortiz’s escape from the Schenectady County Jail wasn’t the only one.

In September 1983, three inmates overpowered a dispatcher and took the dispatcher’s gun. One was caught three days later. The other two — including convicted killer Karl Paige — remained free for six weeks. Paige continues serving his total 40-years-to-life sentence at the Elmira Correctional Facility.

In 1984, three inmates escaped in separate incidents from the Schenectady County Jail. One slipped through bars in a kitchen window, the other two scaled the same outdoor fence two months apart. Two were found within hours, the other had 11 days of freedom.

The Schenectady County Jail was renovated in 1985 and expanded in 1993.

The Rensselaer County Jail was the site of its own jailbreak in February 1993. Two inmates used a fire extinguisher to break through the then-new building’s non-reinforced concrete walls. One inmate remained free for a day, the other for three days.

The Fulton County Jail saw its own escape in February 1992 after the inmate persuaded a jail guard to leave his cell door open. He escaped and was arrested three days later.

Other notable escapes and manhunts: A convicted murderer in state custody fled in Albany in April 2005 while awaiting treatment in a secure facility near Albany Medical Center. That man, Rimell Mitchell, was back in custody within two hours, found hiding in a home’s closet. Mitchell, who was convicted of murder in Queens, received an additional 25 years to life. He is serving his time at Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus.

In August 1998, accused multiple killer Gary Evans kicked his way out of a window of a U.S. Marshal Service van on the Troy-Menands Bridge. He then jumped to his death. He was accused of killing five people from 1985 to 1997.

The September 1994 Joel O’Keefe manhunt lasted two weeks. In custody on multiple charges, he was able to run out of a state police car south of Ballston Spa. He survived by raiding backyard vegetable gardens and stole a bike. He was captured in a Bennington, Vermont, sandwich shop.

He remains in custody at the Attica Correctional Facility serving up to 29 years on various convictions.

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