Wednesday, February 20, 2019


Dannemora by Charles A. Gardner
Kensington: 2/26/19
eBook review copy; 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780806539249 

Dannemora: Two Escaped Killers, Three Weeks of Terror, and the Largest Manhunt Ever in New York State by Charles A. Gardner is a very highly recommended examination of the events that lead to the 2015 breakout and the aftermath of the manhunt.

The Clinton Correctional Facility is located in Dannemora, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, near the Canadian border. In June of 2015 two convicted murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were able to escape the maximum-security facility. The two were aided in their escape by prison employee, Joyce Mitchell. She provided them with the tools they needed to cut through  the steel walls in their cells. From there they had access to the catwalk behind the cells that led to a series of tunnels and underground pipes that allowed them to escape outside the prison walls through a manhole. For twenty-three days news reports followed the escape and the manhunt while residents in the area "were virtual prisoners in their own homes as law enforcement from across the nation swept the rural wilderness near the Canadian border."

Gardner, a municipal court judge, a lifelong resident of the community, and a retired correction officer does an excellent job presenting the background, complete story, and timeline of the murderers, and the terrifying manhunt after their escape. The escape was essentially the perfect storm of bureaucratic incompetence and cost-cutting measures, combined with Mitchell's lack of morals, ethics and stupidity. Gardener has professional insight into the corrections systems history and training, and can pin point state actions and budget cuts that resulted in an environment that helped facilitate the escape.

Dannemora is an excellent true crime drama, well-written and skillfully organized. For those, like myself, who were not familiar with the escape at Dannemora, Gardner, provides all the information I needed to understand the background and circumstances of the escape. He shares his personal history and credentials which allow extra insight into the correctional system. He furnishes the biographical background of convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat. There is succinct information on Mitchell's fraternization with both men, smuggling in contraband for them, and other, inconceivable and just plain stupid actions on her part that assisted in their escape. (She was also supposed to be their get-away driver, but suffered a panic attack at the last minute and didn't show up.) He explains some of the lax actions of a few the guards, why some security measures are no longer followed, and how everything combined with Mitchell's actions to result in the escape. The timeline leading up to the end result of the manhunt is clearly laid out and easy to follow.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Kensington.

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