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Autopsy: Matt shot three times in the head; had bug bites, blisters

His body showed what he had been through.

Bug bites and blisters. Abrasions.

And, finally, head wounds where he was shot three times by law enforcement.

Richard W. Matt was shot when he came face-to-face with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Tactical Unit member armed with a semi-automatic weapon on Friday afternoon, State Police reported, based on preliminary results from an autopsy conducted Saturday in Albany Medical Center.

It left the prison escapee who grew up in the City of Tonawanda with severe skull fractures and brain injuries, the autopsy found.

Also, the autopsy revealed that Matt’s three weeks on the run were far from luxurious.

Insect bites were found on his lower extremities, along with “blisters and minor abrasions consistent with living in the woods for three weeks,” the statement read.

If you look at Matt’s final three weeks and his sudden death, it appears in some ways as different from what people remember of the flight and woodland survival of another prison escapee with Western New York connections – that of Ralph “Bucky” Phillips, who escaped from a correctional facility in Erie County in April 2006 and was captured in September of that year.

“They were obviously exposed to long hours in the woods,” said Cattaraugus County Sheriff Timothy S. Whitcomb of Matt and David P. Sweat, who escaped from a state prison in Dannemora on June 6.

Whitcomb said the two were in unfamiliar territory. “They were a long ways from home,” he said. “This was not their backyard.”

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace said that, compared to Matt and Sweat, Phillips had some advantages in terms of woods survival and subsistence.

“He was very familiar with the surroundings,” Gerace said.

“In the majority of months he was at large, he was in and out of woods he knew.”

The Buffalo News reported Sunday that Matt was ill and drunk when he was shot.

A law enforcement source revealed that soiled underwear was found Wednesday in a burglarized cabin. The DNA on the underwear was matched to Matt and indicated he was sick, possibly from drinking bad water or eating spoiled food.

The source also said Matt’s body had a strong odor of alcohol.

Toxicology tests were still pending, according to State Police.

Gerace said that the final weeks on the run were an ordeal for Matt and Sweat.

“These guys were desperate,” Gerace said. “They were trying to move through deep woods. They were trying to elude capture – and they weren’t familiar with where they were.”

email: mbecker@buffnews.com