Dannemora manhunt commander talks new book

September 29, 2017 05:35 AM

Two convicted murderers were on the loose in the vast Adirondacks, and it was the job of Major Charles Guess to find them.

In his new book, "Relentless Pursuit, Inside the Escape from Dannemora: New York's Largest Manhunt" Maj. Guess describes the 23-day manhunt that ended successfully with the killing and capture of escaped prisoners Richard Matt and David Sweat.

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Now retired, Maj. Guess was the State Police Troop B Commander in June 2015. He had visited Clinton County Correctional Facility in Dannemora three and a half weeks before the manhunt as part of an annual check-in meant to make a plan if an escape happened. It had been 110 years since an escape from the main facility, and Guess never guessed he would get the 6 AM phone call to put the plan into action.

At times during the manhunt, Major Guess was in command of over 1,500 members of law enforcement.

As the hot days in thick Adirondack forest went by with the two still on the loose, Guess describes how fatigue and skepticism started to creep in. About a week through, Guess said he stood up in front of a crowd of officers who were ready to start their search.

"A couple hundred people of mixed agencies, and I just said 'today is the day', and they looked at me like I had two heads, 'what is he talking about now?' You know? And I repeated it, and I said 'today is the day you could expect we can capture them,'" said Maj. Guess.

That was Maj. Guess's mantra. He didn't want officers to get complacent, and let the convicts escape. Or worse. Get killed by one of them.

Despite what so-called experts on national television said at the time, Maj. Guess says there was no evidence Matt and Sweat had escaped to Canada or Mexico.

And finally, 15 days through there was a major breakthrough. Officers found a camp where Richard Matt and David Sweat had been hiding.

"That was monumental for us, because not only did validate that our strategy was working. We somehow still had them contained within the environs of the Adirondacks. But it gave us a new starting point and it allowed us to shift large forces and place them in such a manner to keep that pressure up," said Maj. Guess.

On day 20, a camp owner reported a sighting. It was one of hundreds of tips.  But this was the real deal. Officers shot and killed Matt. Three days later, Sgt. Jay Cook chased down and shot Sweat two miles from the Canadian border.

"Sweat had been apprehended, and none of our people had been hurt. No one in the community was heart. It was an enormous feeling of relief," said Maj. Guess.

Guess says it felt like the safety of every resident of the North Country was weighing on the shoulders for the 23 days.

"I said to my wife, not entirely joking, I probably lost one or two years off my life. But I consider all of that worthwhile, just based on the ending that we had," said Guess.

The link to buy the book is here.

You can see Subrina Dhammi's full half-hour interview with Major Guess on NewsChannel 13's Forum on Sunday October 8 at 6:00 AM.

Maj. Guess is serving as a law enforcement consultant and plans to make a cameo as himself on the Showtime series about the manhunt. 

WEB EXTRA: Maj. Guess explains why he decided to write his book


Asa Stackel

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