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‘I believe he is in hell...where he deserves to be’

Richard W. Matt’s brother believes that the prison escapee went straight to hell when he was shot and killed Friday in the Adirondacks.

“I believe he is in hell. That is where he deserves to be,” Wayne M. Schimpf told The Buffalo News, speaking at length for the first time since Matt was killed. “He killed and dismembered Mr. Rickerson. He killed that guy in Mexico and may have killed another guy.”

“It might sound bad, but I am happy. That’s because I’ll never have to deal with him again,” said Schimpf, who shares the same mother as Matt. “For almost 20 years, there hasn’t been a day when I have not been afraid that he was coming to get me.”

Only now does Schimpf feel certain that his brother can no longer make good on death threats after Matt warned him not to tell police that he had confessed to killing and dismembering 76-year-old William Rickerson, Matt’s former boss, in 1997.

Matt’s body remains unclaimed at the Albany County Medical Examiner’s Office, where an autopsy Friday determined he had been shot three times in the head by a member of the federal Customs and Border Protection Tactical Unit after refusing to put down a shotgun.

Schimpf says he has no intention of claiming the body. And it appears likely that Matt’s body may end up in a prison cemetery.

However, Nicholas Harris, Matt’s 23-year-old son from Angola, said late Tuesday that he intends to claim his father’s body.

“We’re going to have a closed, private funeral service,” said Harris, who lashed out at authorities for the manner in which Matt died. “It was a wrongful death. They shouldn’t have shot him in the head. Three shots in the head … come on. One shot in the head is going to take a person out.”

Harris, who is on leave from college, said he will somehow cover the funeral expenses, although he believes it is the responsibility of New York State.

“Clinton Correctional Facility has a contract with a funeral home, but the state is not willing to pay for it,” said Harris, who pointed that the other escapee, David P. Sweat, is receiving costly medical care for his gunshot wounds suffered during his capture.

Schimpf and other relatives said it was their understanding that the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will handle burial if no family members claim the body. “I have no plans for a funeral,” said Schimpf, 47, of Amherst. “I don’t want to have anything to do with him.”

There was a time, though, when Schimpf was eager to be in the company of his brother.

‘Tough guy persona’

Schimpf said foster parents took in him in six days after his birth and adopted him when he was 12. “I was told when I was growing up that I was not allowed to meet them and that I wouldn’t want to meet them,” Schimpf said of the Matt family.

But around 1990 and in his early 20s, he said, his curiosity got the best of him.

“I always knew I was adopted and that I had a brother Rick and another brother, Bob. When growing up, you always wonder about your biological father,” he said.

Aware that Richard Matt had been on the wrong side of the law while being raised by foster parents in the City of Tonawanda, Schimpf went to that city’s police station. He met with then-Detective David Bentley, who previously had numerous encounters with Richard Matt and had tried to turn his life around.

“Detective Bentley thought I was Rick. I looked so much like him,” Schimpf said. “He told me Rick was painting the Goodwill building, so I went there and was told that he’d finished the paint job a week ago and that I should go to the Goodwill in downtown Buffalo. I spoke with a gentleman and a meeting was arranged.”

The brothers hit it off. And that also set in motion what Schimpf came to learn were the twisted ways of the Matt family.

“I want to say it went really good. He seemed like a normal guy. He told me he’d been in trouble but didn’t get into details in that first meeting. But after that, we started hanging out a lot,” Schimpf said.

During that first meeting, Matt pulled out a 1986 newspaper article from his wallet that reported his escape from Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden. “He was extremely proud of it. He always tried to portray himself with a tough guy persona. I thought he was just acting it,” Schimpf said.

At one point, the two brothers connected with their only other sibling, Robert Jr., who came up from Florida. The three brothers were together for the first time in their lives.

“We had a tradition of going out and getting drunk on our birthdays, and when Bob was in town, it was his birthday and we all went out and got drunk,” Schimpf said.

On another occasion, Matt arranged for Schimpf to meet the man he thought was his father.

“I went over to Rick’s girlfriend’s house in the LaSalle projects in Buffalo, and Robert Matt Sr. was eating soup,” Schimpf said. “His name is on my pre-adoption birth certificate. He put out his hand and said, ‘Hi, I’m not your father. My brother Doug is.’ That was on a Christmas morning.”

Douglas Matt, who previously had a sexual relationship with the mother of Richard and Robert Jr., was living in Georgia at the time under an alias because of a run-in with the law. Douglas eventually returned to Buffalo and met Schimpf.

“He never knew I was his son,” Schimpf said.

On yet another occasion, Richard Matt and Robert Matt Jr. called their mother, who was living in Texas, so that Schimpf could speak to her for the first time in his life.

“She denied being my mother, but her name was on my pre-adoption birth certificate and on my baptismal certificate too,” Schimpf said. “Another time when I called her, she answered the phone and said she was the maid.”

But it wasn’t until several years later that Schimpf realized how much of a Pandora’s box he had opened when seeking out his blood relatives.

On an evening in December 1997, Matt and his friend Lee Bates visited Schimpf at his Sanders Road home in North Buffalo. Matt told Schimpf he was going to see his former boss to obtain money that he felt Rickerson owed him.

“Rick and Lee Bates left my house and went right to Mr. Rickerson’s house,” Schimpf said. “Rick had taken my duct tape, an aluminum baseball bat, baseball batting gloves and a Buck knife, basically some of the stuff he used in crime.”

Dismemberment described

Days later, Matt again showed up at Schimpf’s home and said that things had gone wrong in the confrontation with Rickerson. Matt claimed he punched Rickerson in the face and knocked him down a flight of steps, and Rickerson suffered a broken neck and died. Then, in another meeting, Schimpf learned more about the slaying.

“He came out and said he cut up the body. I asked him how he did it,” Schimpf said. “He turned and looked at me with these evil eyes and a grin and said ‘with a hacksaw,’ like it was commonplace, like it meant absolutely nothing to him. It was then that I finally saw the Richard Matt that everyone has been seeing on the television with the escape, how they’ve been saying he’s a coldblooded murderer and sadistic.”

After Matt had told him about the dismemberment, Schimpf said, his brother began threatening to kill him and his fiancée, he said.

“He had someone drop him off at my house on Sanders, and he said ‘I have something I want to talk to you about,’ ” Schimpf said. “At first, it was, ‘You’re my brother, I love you. Can you help me out? I need to go to Mexico. I need to go out of town.’ He wanted my van. I told him I worked for a courier company and needed my van. It’s how I make my living.

“That’s when he came out and said, ‘If you don’t let me have it, I kill you and your fiancée.’ After what he told me about the hacksaw and everything, I most certainly did believe him.”

Schimpf said he drove with Matt to a hardware store and had a second set of van keys made. A day or so later, the van was missing and Schimpf reported it stolen to Buffalo police.

As North Tonawanda detectives intensified their investigation into the Rickerson killing, investigators were soon interviewing Schimpf, who said he fully cooperated with them.

“One thing I have never said to anybody until now is that I have had to live with guilt for almost 20 years,” Schimpf said. “If I had known what he was going to do, kill Mr. Rickerson, I would have called the police. He told me he was going over to talk to the guy. He told me he was owed pay and if the guy didn’t give it to him, he’d take it from him. I thought it was my brother just trying to act tough.”

In 2008, Schimpf said he willingly agreed to be one of the witnesses who testified against Matt in Niagara County Court, where Matt was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

“One of the last things I said when I left the courtroom was to the detectives. ‘What happens when he escapes?’ They said that will never happen. But he had escaped before,” Schimpf said.

That changed June 6, when Matt and Sweat broke out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora and spent three weeks on the run.

“I was watching the television 24/7,” Schimpf said. “I might have caught a half-hour of sleep here and there. I had been waiting for the knock on the door. He told me he could do seven years, but no way he could life. I had to assume he would escape.”

‘A coldblooded killer’

At one point, the search for the escapees focused briefly on Schimpf’s home when about 100 heavily armed members of law enforcement – federal, state and local – showed up and searched the residence.

And what was his reaction to the story that Matt and Sweat were going to have Joyce E. Mitchell, the prison tailor shop supervisor, drive them to Mexico before she backed out?

“I 100 percent believe that if that plan went through and Joyce Mitchell picked them up, there is no way she and Sweat were making that trip to Mexico,” Schimpf said. “My brother is a coldblooded killer. He would have killed Sweat and Mitchell and gone to Mexico alone.”

Schimpf said he was not surprised that authorities determined that Matt was intoxicated at the time of his death.

“His birthday was the day before he got shot,” Schimpf said, “and he always got drunk on his birthday. That’s why he reeked of alcohol.”

Matt was 49.

email: lmichel@buffnews.com