When two convicted murders escaped from a maximum-security lockup this summer, they were counting on prison seamstress Joyce Mitchell to bring them a getaway car and a sawed-off shotgun. But Mitchell, who supplied them with the tools to breakout, said she stood them up because she knew they would kill her — and her husband.
“They would have had the vehicle. They wouldn’t have needed me,” Mitchell told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive jailhouse interview that aired Friday.
“I had no intention of ever showing up.”
Mitchell is facing seven years in prison for smuggling the tools that convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat used to escape the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, in June. She pleaded guilty to promoting prison contraband in the first degree and criminal facilitation in the fourth degree. Mitchell is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 28.
For three weeks, residents of the rural area near the Canadian border lived in fear — until Matt was killed and Sweat was shot and captured.
Once back in custody, Sweat portrayed Mitchell as a willing participant who had come up with a plan to knock off her husband, Lyle, another prison worker.
In her interview with TODAY, Mitchell adamantly denied that, saying it was Matt who insisted Lyle had to go and who gave her pills to drug him.
“I knew I was in so far that I had to just keep going along with it,” Mitchell said. “So when Mr. Matt brought me the pills, they were in my drawer at work. And I took ‘em home and I flushed ‘em.”
On June 6, Matt let her know that he and Sweat would soon be making a break for it — the culmination of a plot so elaborate it drew comparisons to the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”
“Tonight’s the night,” Matt said, according to Mitchell, who said she avoided him the rest of the day so she wouldn’t have to think about what she was supposed to do.
She gave TODAY the blow-by-blow of the plan.
“I was supposed to come up and park by the manhole that they were gonna be coming out of. And I was supposed to pretend that I was making a phone call while they were coming out,” she said.
“I was supposed to bring clothes for them. I was supposed to bring a tent. I was supposed to bring a shotgun.”
After the rendezvous, Matt intended to go to the Mitchell home, where he expected Lyle would be passed out from the pills.
“He was gonna kill Lyle,” she said. “And I couldn’t let him kill my husband.
“I know it’s hard to believe,” she added. “But I do love my husband.”
The mother of three said it was love for her husband that stopped her from meeting Matt and Sweat that night. Instead, she went to the hospital with a panic attack.
“I was scared,” she said. “And I prayed and prayed and prayed that they would get caught and no one would get hurt.”
When she was released from the hospital, she said, she went to the cops.
“I was not completely honest with the state police at first,” she said. “But the next day my husband and I both went back…and I started to tell the state police everything.
“I have been completely honest with them,” she added. “I have told them everything.”
And, she says, she’s also come clean with her husband, who is standing by her.
“He’s a very amazing man. And he’s a blessing from God for me,” she said. “I love him with all my heart, and I’m not leaving his side.”
The final portion of Mitchell's interview with Lauer will air on a two-hour Dateline special Friday, Sept. 18 at 9 p.m. ET.