It’s all too familiar: a woman who risks it all for the sake of a sweet-talking guy. Joyce Mitchell, a prison worker in upstate New York, was arrested on Friday, accused of providing contraband that helped two inmates, Richard Matt, 48 years old, and David Sweat, 34, break free from the Clinton Correctional Facility more than a week ago. The desperadoes are still on the run, while she is now in custody.
A 51-year-old wife and mother, Mitchell is believed to have formed a personal relationship with the men, according to officials. The men are both convicted murderers. To escape, they used smuggled tools to cut through their cell walls and a steam pipe, eventually emerging from a manhole in the town of Dannemora.
The extent of Mitchell’s relationship with the men is unclear. Before the prison break, officials reportedly probed an alleged relationship between Mitchell and Sweat, but did not find enough evidence to take action. Last week, Mitchell told investigators that Matt — not Sweat — made her feel “special,” without elaborating, according to CNN. Special enough to have agreed to be waiting at the emerging manhole with a getaway car, until she reportedly developed a panic attack and was a no-show.
Mitchell has pleaded not guilty. But if the allegations turn out to be true, it wouldn’t be the first time a woman fell under the spell of murderous men. Here, some of the most dramatic examples of women who helped spring killers from jail — or decided to join them in a jailhouse marriage.
The Escape Artists
The case captured headlines across the country. A talented lawyer in her twenties, Mary Evans had dropped everything to run away with a client — prisoner William Timothy Kirk.
The romance began in the early eighties, after the 37-year-old Kirk killed two inmates while serving time in Tennessee for armed robbery. Evans was his court-appointed attorney on the case. The two fell in love and concocted a wild plan for escape: Evans arranged for Kirk to meet with her and a psychologist outside the prison. During the meeting, in March of 1983, Evans whipped a gun out of her purse. Kirk bound and gagged the therapist as well as three prison guards, and the lovebirds sped off in her Toyota.
They were caught a few months later in Florida, trying to pick up funds from a Western Union in Daytona Beach. Her friends were baffled that she would blow up her life. But Evans said she had no regrets, reportedly describing the getaway as “the happiest time of my life.” Kirk went back to jail. Evans’ lawyers argued that she suffered from years of deepening mental illness. “The point was not sex,” she reportedly said of the affair. “The point was I would not be me anymore.” She was sentenced to three years in prison. After 11 months, she got out on parole and reportedly became a secretary in Florida.
They started as pen pals, thanks to a church program. A Pennsylvania wife and mother in her early forties, Diane Brodbeck began corresponding with a former math teacher named Jon Yount, who was serving a life sentence for raping and murdering an 18-year-old student. The letters grew increasingly amorous, and she began making frequent visits. In 1986, the middle-aged Yount was doing an unsupervised work detail on a road outside the prison grounds. Brodbeck rolled up in her car, he jumped in, and they peeled out.
They spent more than two years on the lam, living together under assumed names in Idaho. Then their story appeared on the show Unsolved Mysteries and they got caught. He went back to prison. She reunited with her family and was sentenced to two years behind bars. “She was going through a difficult time in her life,” her lawyer reportedly said at the time. “She wasn’t getting the attention at home that she needed or wanted, and she was very attracted to Jon Yount.” In April 2012, Yount hanged himself in prison.
A love of pottery brought them together. Bobbi Parker was a wife and mother in her early thirties when she befriended prisoner Randolph Dial. In his late forties at the time, Dial was serving a life sentence in Oklahoma for murdering a woman in 1981. The Parker family lived in housing on the prison grounds, as Parker’s husband was the deputy warden. Parker ran a pottery class for well-behaved inmates from her garage. Dial was among them — an eager student at the kiln. In August of 1994, the two zoomed off together in the Parker family minivan.
For more than 10 years, they remained at large. After their story appeared on the show America’s Most Wanted, they were found in 2005, living together as a couple on a chicken farm in Texas. Parker, 42 years old at the time, claimed it wasn’t love. She said she was abducted and had stayed with the killer for a decade amid psychological abuse and fear for her family. Dial, then 60, went back to prison. Parker reunited with her family and was charged with helping Dial escape. She received a one-year sentence. Dial later died of lung cancer. In a 2012 interview, Parker said she is still with her husband, Randy Parker.
And then there’s the marrying kind: The Jailhouse Brides
She decided Charles Manson was Mr. Right after she began writing to him in jail while she was a teenager in Illinois. Now in her twenties, Afton Burton reportedly told her parents last summer that she plans to marry the notorious criminal, who ran a hippie cult in California in the 1960s, manipulating his followers into murdering people. The 80-year-old Manson is serving a life sentence in California. Burton’s father blames his daughter’s romance on youthful rebellion and has said he “won’t be hopping on a plane” to attend any wedding. But he says he loves her and won’t disown her.
Burton, who lives in California, has reportedly secured a marriage license. But no wedding bells yet. Trouble arose earlier this year, when reports said the only reason she wants to wed is to nab the rights to Manson’s corpse when he dies — so she can display it in a glass case. Burton has denied that claim, proclaiming her love. Her mother has said she believes Manson truly loves her daughter, but noted some issues: “She doesn’t live close to us,” she said. “We can’t be there for her.”
She believes people can change. Leidy Figueroa married murderer Joran van der Sloot last year at a prison in Peru, where he is serving a 28-year sentence for bludgeoning a young Peruvian woman to death in 2010. The 27-year-old Dutchman is also tied to the unsolved disappearance of Natalee Hollaway, the American teen who vanished in Aruba a decade ago. Figueroa reportedly met him five years ago, while visiting another inmate at the prison, and began bringing him home-cooked meals. She was 26 when she tied the knot, and has reportedly called her husband “gentle, sensitive, kind” and “no monster.” He is a “different man,” she has said, after finding God. The pair had no honeymoon, but did manage to have a baby. This past fall, she reportedly gave birth to a girl, thanks to conjugal visits in jail.
Carole Ann Boone
Serial killer Ted Bundy was on trial in Florida when his friend Carole Ann Boone testified on his behalf in 1980. Romance bloomed. In a surprise proposal, Bundy, a former law student, asked Boone to marry him in court during the trial. She said yes. Bundy then announced, “I do hereby marry you.” Some officials said the marriage was legal due to a Florida law that allowed people who declared marriage in front of a judge to be legally wed.
Connected to at least 36 murders, Bundy was sentenced to death. Boone visited him on death row, living and working nearby. She publicly declared his innocence, even though he admitted guilt. In 1982, she gave birth to a baby girl and claimed Bundy was the father, although the claim was in doubt since conjugal visits weren’t allowed. Officials said it was unlikely that Bundy was the dad, as inmates met with visitors in a large room patrolled by guards. But they also said anything was possible, since physical contact sometimes occurred. Some observers speculated that the guards had been bribed to give the couple time alone. Boone said it was “nobody’s business” how it happened.
Love didn’t last — Boone later left Bundy. He was executed by electric chair in 1989. Her fate is unknown. The daughter would be in her thirties today.