As the hunt for two escaped killers enters its sixth day, Vermont State Police are focusing their search on the shores and islands in Lake Champlain, and about 50 state troopers have joined the search.
Vermont State Police say residents shouldn’t panic. But Gov. Peter Shumlin says Richard Matt and David Sweat could be in the vicinity, and that they pose a serious threat to anyone they encounter.
"We’re messing with folks here that … are ruthless,” Shumlin said during a media briefing in Waterbury Thursday morning. “They have no heart, they have no conscience. They’ll kill to get their way if they need to, if it helps them.”
Convicted murderers doing life sentences, the two men escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. sometime Friday night or Saturday morning.
While investigators say they believe the men may have been planning to flee to Vermont, in search of an uninhabited camp or rural outpost to lie low, it’s possible they never made it.
“I just want to make it perfectly clear that we have no credible threat at the moment that these two prisoners are here in Vermont,” said Vermont State Police Col. Thomas L’Esperance.
L’Esperance said a tip about the escapes being spotted on Burton Island in Lake Champlain turned out not to be true. Commissioner of Public Safety Keith Flynn said Vermonters should freely go about their daily lives.
“What we’re asking Vermonters to do is just to be aware of what’s going on around you. Be aware of circumstances, be aware of anything that looks unusual,” Flynn said.
L’Esperance said while the men should be considered dangerous, there’s no reason for resident to be fearful. “We are here to provide public safety, at the same time not to provide hysteria,” L’Esperance said.
The manhunt continues on multiple fronts. New York law-enforcement teams recently targeted their search on a wooded area near Dannemora, after bloodhounds reportedly picked up a scent.
L’Esperance said Vermonters may notice more police patrols in certain areas of this state, but that they won’t see the kind of manhunt underway in New York. “On that side of the lake, certainly the presence is something I’ve never seen. It’s a police state in northern New York, as it should be,” L’Esperance said.
Flynn said Vermont State Police will continue their search until the two men are back behind bars.