MALONE — It's entirely possible that David Sweat and Richard Matt are armed, police say.
"Just about every cabin or outbuilding in the North Country has one or more shotguns or weapons," State Police Troop B Commander Maj. Charles Guess said at a press conference in Cadyville on Wednesday.
"(These men) are extremely dangerous; they are cunning. Why wouldn't they try to arm themselves immediately upon escape?
"We have, since day 1, operated under the belief that these men are armed."
Guess did not address whether the Clinton Correctional escapees took a firearm from the hunting camp on Wolf Pond Road on BlackCatMountain that has been confirmed as a hideout of the pair.
Police know through DNA results that the convicted killers were there last Saturday.
"There have been reports, widely made, that a shotgun is missing (from somewhere)," Guess said. "(But) I do not have confirmatory evidence that a particular shotgun is missing."
The manhunt shifted to Bellmont after John Stockwell, one of several correction officers who leases the BlackCatMountain camp, spotted, unexpectedly, a jug of water and jar of peanut butter out on a table. Armed with a handgun, he yelled for the intruders to come out and saw a man run out the back.
Asked about a report of bloody socks found in the bunkhouse-style camp, Guess said there was "no definitive information to reveal that someone is injured."
Blood on a sock is not necessarily anything serious — it might be from a blister, he implied.
"(But) anything that would impede their progress would be good for us," he said.
Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill said the search was still intense in the area near the camp.
If the inmates don't have a compass, they could be lost and circling, he said.
"We've lost hunters up there before."
More than 1,000 searchers were combing about 75 square miles of FranklinCounty, and the public was asked to stay alert and report anything out of the ordinary.
Matt and Sweat could, Guess said, now be quite far from the hunting camp. If their way had been unimpeded along a pathway, such as on an all-terrain vehicle trail, he said, they could easily have covered 10 miles a day.
"But we had units in that area almost immediately," he said.
State Department of Environmental Conservation Capt. John Streiff cited the "remoteness, terrain, vegetation and ever-changing weather conditions" of the area as factors that could hamper the convicts' flight.
At the same time, the searchers face the same impediments, he said.
"The wetlands are challenging," he said, and officers, coping with rain and bugs, can sometimes see only a few feet in front of them in the heavily forested terrain.
Guess noted that police have received upward of 2,200 leads in the case and were pushing onward to search every inch of the FranklinCounty target area as well as investigating tips that lead elsewhere.
"Bottom line is we don't want them to have a restful, peaceful night ... whether this ends here today in Owls Head or an indeterminate period of time going forward," he said.
"We will resolve this case and capture these individuals. What you're seeing here is the face of relentless pursuit."
— Staff Writer Joe LoTemplio and Contributing Writer Justin Trombly added to this report.