NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB) — On June 7, agents from the Office of the Inspector General and Department of Corrections showed up to a Niagara County’s woman’s work. They were looking for leads in the hunt for escaped killer Richard Matt — who was still hunkered down in the deep woods of Malone, some seven hours away.
She knew what they wanted.
“Oh, they wanted to know about Rick,” she said.
Richard Matt may have been a horrific killer. But to her, “Rick,” as she called him, was a dear friend.
On June 26, she said she lost her friend when he was shot dead by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
“I feel lost, you know,” she said.
News 4 is using the nickname her husband gave her, “BonJo,” to protect her identity.
“I sent Valentines cards, birthday cards, Father’s Day cards Christmas cards, you know, he was like family,” she said.
BonJo’s husband met Matt on the honor block at Clinton Correctional Facility three years ago.
“Him and Rick just started hitting it off,” she said. “He would tell me his days, and that he was protecting my husband. You know, ‘Don’t worry about him, I’ve got his back and friends forever.'”
That correspondence went on for the past two and a half years; monthly letters, occasional packages.
The final letter she received from Matt arrived June 5, just hours before he and David Sweat would be the first to breakout of the maximum security prison.
“Normal letter. You know thank you for the package, I’ll see you when I get out.”
The next day, BonJo came across the unthinkable.
“I saw it on the Internet. You know, two guys had escaped from Clinton. I scroll down and there’s Rick’s face. And I thought, ‘Oh my God. What the Hell did you do?'”
That question will go unanswered.
Twenty-four hours later, agents showed up at her work and demanded years worth of letters.
“They wanted to see if there is anything in there, to see what he was planning,” she said.
The only one they didn’t take was among the first Matt sent to her Niagara County home.
“…I’ve been in prison 14 years now. I’m serving 25 years to life sentence. Please write if you are interested. I will respond. Rick.”
That letter may have meant little to BonJo before because another was always coming behind it.
Then she got the call. Rick had been found. He was dead.
“I just started shaking. I got real quiet, tears started forming and I said I got to get out of here. I came home and ball my eyes out. It’s like losing a very dear friend. And I just didn’t him to do it that way.”
BonJo says the media coverage of the escape and manhunt made her frustrated.
“They’re talking about a person that was. And I knew him now. Everybody has a past,” she said. “Regardless of whether it’s good or bad or whatever. Somebody needs a friend, and that’s what I was. Just a very good friend. Always be his friend. Always. And I lost a friend.”
BonJo says she feels for Matt’s family.
“They lost a dad, and I lost a good friend. I’m sorry,” she said crying. “I mean, I loved him. I loved him like a friend. And now it’s gone.”