Husband of alleged prison break helper Joyce Mitchell feels betrayed
NEW YORK — The husband of Joyce Mitchell, the woman accused of helping two murderers escape a maximum security prison in upstate New York, feels betrayed, lost and is “looking for his life again,” according to his attorney.
Lyle Mitchell had no clue his wife was involved in the elaborate prison break when the couple were first questioned by police, said his attorney Peter Dumas.
Only two days after the escape did Lyle Mitchell realize “that something is going on here” and confront his wife, who warned him that the escaped men had been plotting to kill him, Dumas said.
The inmates “had a plan to do harm to Lyle. She doesn’t agree with that. She doesn’t want Lyle hurt, and I think that some threats were made to her from the inmates at that point,” the lawyer said.
Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailor shop instructor, is now behind bars. She has pleaded not guilty to the two charges against her, a felony charge of promoting prison contraband and a misdemeanor charge of criminal facilitation.
She is accused of sneaking hacksaw blades, chisels, drill bits, a punch and other contraband into the convicts’ hands.
But the tools did not come from Lyle Mitchell’s garage, according to Dumas, who said his client did an inventory and found none were missing.
“Apparently what he believes is she got them at the store,” he said.
Police have asked Lyle Mitchell to think about any unusual behavior by his wife in the days or months before the escape in the hope of finding new leads, Dumas said.
“I hate to use a cliche, but love is blind,” the lawyer said. “And I think with him, he was just so happy with it that they rarely fought.”
The couple spent a lot of time together. They had known each other for 21 years, were married for 14 years and both worked at the Clinton Correctional Facility.
Lyle Mitchell loved his job and knew the two convicted murderers, Dumas said. When suggestions arose two years ago that Joyce Mitchell was having a relationship with one of the killers, David Sweat, Lyle Mitchell confronted his wife and the inmate.
“Sweat had talked to him at that point in time because he works in the facility with her and said, ‘No, no, no — there’s nothing going on,’ ” Dumas said.
But there was an investigation into an inappropriate relationship between Joyce Mitchell and Sweat at the time, and the inmate was moved out of the tailor shop in 2013 to keep them separated, said Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie.
Lyle Mitchell is not standing by his wife and is not supporting any allegations of her innocence, but he wants to make sure she is not hurt, his attorney said.
“There is a big part of his life that he is wondering if it was a lie all the time,” he said. “There is a big part of his life that’s gone now, pulled out from under him.”
On Tuesday, Lyle Mitchell was face to face with his wife for the first time since her arrest. They spoke for an hour over a phone separated by glass, according to Clinton County Sheriff David Favro.
The couple raised Joyce Mitchell’s son, Tobey, who was adopted by Lyle Mitchell, Dumas said. Tobey asked Lyle Mitchell whether he is still going to be his father.
“And Lyle said, ‘Of course, I’ve been your father for 20 years, I’m going to keep on being here for you,’ ” he said.