Dannemora escapee David Sweat testifies against fellow escapee in 1993 murder case

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – David Sweat, the man who survived a high profile escape from prison six years ago, testified in a Buffalo courtroom Tuesday, attempting to implicate Richard Matt for the 1993 murder of Deborah Meindl in Tonawanda.

Sweat said he doesn’t know the men who did time for the murder and never knew the name of the victim but he claims it all matches up with something Matt admitted to him before Matt was killed in the prison escape.

Sweat testified that as he and Matt were planning their escape and cutting through the walls of Clinton Correctional Facility six years ago, Matt confided that he had once stabbed and strangled a nurse, a murder Matt said was planned by a police officer friend of his.

When an investigator asked him about it this year, Sweat said none of it sounded familiar. He added that at the time he didn’t want to get involved, but later cooperated because it’s the right thing to do.

Attorneys trying to vacate the convictions of James Pugh and Brian Scott Lorenz believe it presents the possibility that Richard Matt killed Deborah Meindl. Matt did live about a block away around that time.

“Mr. Sweat has zero to gain from testifying today,” claimed Ilann Maazel, the attorney for Brian Scott Lorenz. “At the very least this is evidence that the jury should’ve heard this is the kind of evidence any jury would want to hear. It is plainly a solid lead to another murder suspect.”

But in cross examination, prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable chipped away at his credibility. Sweat admitted half of what he pleaded to 20 years ago was made up to avoid the death penalty. And Gable noted that for a man who has been in solitary confinement for six years, a trip to Buffalo is a nice change. But Sweat lashed back, “You think I’m doing this to get out of my cell? This is exactly what I wanted to avoid.”

“The circumstances are difficult but everything he said today made perfect sense they all fit together,” said Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, attorney for James Pugh. “I think that the District Attorney’s office needs to follow up on these allegations and investigate. That’s the bottom line.”

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