TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB)- Years before Richard Matt escaped from the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, he was just a mischievous teenager from Tonawanda.
A childhood friend of Matt’s who didn’t want to be identified spoke to News 4. “Funny kid, always funny, always had a big smile on his face, but you know, just couldn’t stay out of trouble,” the man said.
Back then, Richard Matt was known as just “Rick.”
“He tried to beat me up at the playground; that’s the first time I ever met him. That was my first initiation with Rick Matt. He was this bully,” his friend said.
He says Matt stopped going to school around seventh or eighth grade, but his friend’s dad, a local police officer, tried to steer him in the right direction.
“Once I got into ninth grade and stuff, my father started helping him out and stuff. He came to live with my dad for a little while,” he said. “And that wasn’t the only time he tried to help him, he was always trying to help him. Ever since he was twelve years old.”
Matt kept in contact with his friend’s dad, even from behind bars.
“He wrote my dad letters, painted pictures for my dad, brought my dad a birthday card for his birthday, sending him cards for his birthday, sending him a letter from prison when it was his birthday. So there’s a different side here that a lot of people don’t see,” his childhood friend said.
But “Rick” also loved the thrill of breaking the law, even sending that trusted cop, his friend’s dad, a photo; showing Matt, police baton in hand, smoking a cigarette and wearing a corrections officer’s uniform. He wrote on the photo “Who said I can’t escape this place!”
His friend said it was sent after Matt did time at Elmira State Prison. He also served time at Attica, before landing in Clinton Correctional.
His friend recalled Matt struggling growing up; he was in and out of foster homes, and tried to take his own life.
“Rick opened the door, he was standing in the door with his hands down, at his sides, facing his hands open, and he had a knife in one hand and he had cut himself 30-40 times all over his wrists, his arms, there was blood all over the place,” he recalled.
He described Matt as both Jekyll and Hyde, but told News 4 in the end, Matt was tempted by his more destructive side.
“He told my father at one point he wanted to be a police officer, you know, when he was younger, 15 years-old or whatever. But that side to him, it was almost like an addiction.”