Three days after Richard W. Matt broke out of the maximum-security prison in Dannemora, his daughter living in a Buffalo suburb received a letter from him, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
“I always promised you I would see you on the outside. I’m a man of my word,” a portion of the letter stated, according to information obtained by The Buffalo News from law enforcement officials.
The letter was postmarked prior to the June 6 escape and arrived June 9.
Matt had maintained a correspondence with his daughter while serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life for murder, acquaintances of the daughter confirmed.
But authorities say the daughter had no idea in advance that her father was planning an escape from Clinton Correctional Facility. Once he and David P. Sweat broke out, she fully cooperated with investigators. In fact, she requested round-the-clock protection, fearing that Matt would attempt to see her while he was on the run. That never happened.
Matt’s daughter declined to be interviewed for this article, and The News is not identifying her or where she lives to protect her privacy.
“Richard Matt was a sociopath, and they were all afraid of him,” a law enforcement official said, adding that Matt’s brother Wayne M. Schimpf had also expressed concern that Matt might attempt an encounter with him.
Schimpf, earlier this week, told The News he had anticipated that his brother would one day escape from prison and try to make good on his threat to kill Schimpf. He had cooperated with North Tonawanda detectives and testified that Matt confessed to him that he had killed William L. Rickerson, 76, in 1997 and dismembered the body to dispose of it.
Matt, 49, was fatally shot last Friday by a federal agent after refusing to put down a shotgun. He did not rely entirely on letters to stay in touch with his daughter, according to the continuing investigation by the State Police, the FBI and the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s Office of Special Investigations.
He persuaded prison employee Joyce E. Mitchell to establish a relationship with his daughter.
Mitchell, 51, the prison’s tailor shop supervisor, began calling and texting Matt’s daughter several months ago.
In the initial phone call from Mitchell, the daughter told investigators that she did not recognize the incoming phone number but decided to accept it.
“I’m a friend of your father’s,” Mitchell said, introducing herself.
Mitchell was actually more than a friend of Matt, authorities say. She is accused of supplying him and Sweat with hacksaw blades and other material to help them escape the prison.
“Mitchell called the daughter a couple of times, but most of the communications were through text messages from Mitchell,” the law enforcement official said. “She would pass along tidbits on how Matt was doing. He had a bad back, and Mitchell gave medical updates. Matt asked that she provide his daughter with the updates. There was nothing suspicious in those exchanges. Nothing about the planned escape was mentioned.”
Matt, The News learned, had undergone back surgery for an injury he had suffered at some point while in prison.
Gregory Durandetto, a City of Tonawanda friend of Matt’s from childhood through earlier adulthood and one of the few people willing to say that Matt had a good side to him as a young man, said he was aware of the daughter’s correspondence with her father.
“She kept in touch with him. There was some degree of care she had for her father,” Durandetto said. “She’s a good woman, but had no idea that Rick was going to escape.”