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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hollywood vs. Richard Matt, Part II

The NY Post ran a fairly lengthy article about the Dannemora prison escape today, with more colorful examples of Richard Matt's sociopathy. Some excerpts (with my comments in parentheses):

‘Ricky’ Matt


Even as a child, Richard Matt was menacing. “He would terrorize kids on the bus,” Randy Szukala, a former chief of police for North Tonawanda, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “Friends of mine knew him. He would just terrorize people. Even in elementary, junior high, he had issues.”

(If you start terrorizing people in elementary school, your path in life is pretty well set early on. A lot of the psychology textbooks say you can't diagnose sociopathy before the age of 18; but character emerges pretty early on.)

Matt was arrested eight times, from 1985 to 1991, on everything from misdemeanor harassment to felony assault. “One time he beat up a girl pretty bad,” Tonawanda Police Capt. Frederic Foels told the paper….

(Hard to picture George Clooney beating the crap out of Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight; or Tim Robbins having actually beaten up his wife before being falsely convicted of murder.)

In 1993, Matt was back in prison for attempted burglary. He did three years, but violated parole once out and wasn’t released again until 1997. That year, Matt was hired by William Rickerson, a Tonawanda man who had a small business re-selling nearly expired food. Matt lasted just a few months before getting fired, and so one snowy night that December, he and ­accomplice Lee Bates attempted to rob Rickerson, then 76.

They bound Rickerson with duct tape and beat him repeatedly, even though he insisted he had no money stashed. The two men ate pepperoni pizza, drank wine and then, as Bates would later testify, Matt dumped the rest of the wine over Rickerson, who was dressed only in pajamas. Then Matt tore off Rickerson’s toupee, shoved it in his pocket and put him in their trunk.

(Exhibiting a normal appetite during the commission of a violent crime is a distinctly sociopathic trait. Most people in such a situation would be far too upset to even think about eating, but if you're utterly remorseless, even committing murder simply don't affect you.)

They drove for nearly 30 hours, crossing state lines. At one point, Matt opened the trunk and bent Rickerson’s fingers back until they broke. Eventually, Matt killed Rickerson with his bare hands, breaking the man’s neck. Then he dismembered the body with a hacksaw and threw the remains in the Niagara River.

(Try to imagine just bending a 76-year-old's fingers back until they break. What kind of person would have the stomach for that?)

A few weeks later, Rickerson’s remains washed up, and Matt told his half-brother, Wayne Schimpf, that he was in trouble and needed to leave town. “I remember his words,” Schimpf later testified. “ ‘I can do another seven years, but I can’t do life.’”

Matt asked for Schimpf’s car. Schimpf refused and would testify that Matt said: “You’re my brother. You’re my blood. I love you, but I’ll kill you.”

(A sociopath's definition of "love" is a little different from most people's.)

Matt took the car and made his way to Mexico where, in 1998, he was imprisoned for stabbing an American engineer to death in a bar. He spent nine years in prison there before his unexpected extradition to the United States in 2007. Mexican authorities simply put Matt on a plane.

(Previous accounts had merely said that Matt had killed a man in a bar fight; the fact that he pulled a knife is illuminative.)

“The United States had a deal with the Mexican government to extradite a drug-cartel kingpin,” veteran court reporter Rick Pfeiffer told the Democrat and Chronicle. “He was being flown back to Texas and . . . this second guy gets off the plane. It took federal marshals almost a day to figure out who this guy was. There had been no discussion with the American government. He had just been such a difficult prisoner — if you can imagine a guy who seemed too difficult to stay in a Mexican prison.”

(Mexican prisons have a reputation for being some of the harshest around; that they would just disgorge an American prisoner because they couldn't handle him is almost hard to believe.)

Matt returned with metal front teeth and a bullet wound — sustained, he said, while attempting yet another escape.

(Metal front teeth in and of themselves are no indication of character, but in Matt's case they did seem to add to his fearsomeness.)

His trial lasted one month, and it took the jury only four hours to find him guilty. He was sentenced to 25 years to life, which he had been serving at Clinton. “Of all the cases I’ve tried,” said prosecutor Joseph Mordino, who had 250 homicides behind him, “this would top my list for the death penalty.”

(Mardino's statement speaks for itself.)

17 comments:

Pavonine99 said...

My father once told me to bend the assailant's little finger back if I was ever attacked. I can't imagine myself having the guts to do that to save my own life (not that I wouldn't, necessarily, I just can't picture it without cringing.) Since most people are reluctant to hurt others because they imagine themselves being injured the same way, it makes me wonder how impervious to pain sociopaths are.

Anonymous said...

Matt is/was pure evil.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
I don't call that guts, just cruelty. I don't think most sociopaths are impervious to pain, though Matt seems to have been. Being tough on oneself and being tough on other people are two different things; the former is real toughness, the latter is merely a matter of being without conscience.

John Craig said...

Susan --
Amen.

Lucian Lafayette said...

The pairing of Matt and Sweat is interesting: one an obvious psychopath, the other having a much shorter criminal record and looking more like a run of the mill thug. Early on, I commented to my wife that I didn't expect Matt to be taken alive ("Top of the world, Ma") but that Sweat would either surrender or simply try to run based on their past. Since it looks like Sweat may survive his wounds, it will be interesting to see what he says if he is interviewed in the future.

John Craig said...

Luke --
You certainly called the outcome on Matt right.

I read a little bit more about Sweat, and the more I read, the more he sounded like a sociopath as well. He wasn't quite as formidable -- or as colorful -- as Matt was, but he's a sociopath as well, and evidently demonstrated it from an early age.

The networks must all be scrambling to be the first to interview him.

BTW, I saw you quoted by Bumbling American the other day. You get around.

Pavonine99 said...

Oh, I didn't mean what Matt did took guts. I meant that it would take guts for a non-sociopath to break someone's finger in self-defense. Doing it to torture someone-that's beyond the pale.

It seems to me that, in addition to lacking empathy, sociopaths lack- repulsion? I mean, there's a visceral reaction most of us get to seeing injury, and someone like Matt doesn't seem to experience it.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
Okay, gotcha. Yes, sociopaths are totally without sympathy. It's the "totally" that most people don't get. Most people think that sociopaths are like us, but a little more cold-heated. They are completely cold-hearted, to an extent most people can't imagine. Sociopaths have all the concern for other people that most people have for a box of tissue papers. Literally. We use a box of tissues and then throw it away, without feeling any remorse; in fact, it wouldn't even occur to us to feel any remorse. That's exactly how sociopaths are with other people.

Anonymous said...

After reading articles about David Sweat's parents, namely, his mother, I can see why the guy is a sociopath. Ugh.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Yes, his mother did seem to be lacking in maternal instinct. I'm a little sick of hearing the mothers of various murderers stick up for their children by saying, "He's a good boy, he would never do something like that," when they're plainly wrong. But at least they're showing some maternal instinct.

Anonymous said...

You're not kidding. She seemed blah, telling a few fibs herself about family life back in the day. She came across as being non-maternal, totally unnurturing. Another person who shouldn't have reproduced.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Yes, and that explains Sweat's sociopathy perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Hare described psychopaths as "intraspecies predators."

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
Apt phrase.

The Irish Bitch from Hell said...

If you read the news from the trial, Sweat actually did immediately express remorse for killing the deputy and quickly confessed. Maybe if his subhuman of a mother bothered to provide a stable home life and schooling that deputy would still be alive and he'd be doing something productive. Numerous articles talk about him being bounced around from foster home to foster home with a very spotty record of enrollment in school. I don't know how likely he would have been to kill again but her certainly doesn't know much of a life outside crime.

John Craig said...

Irish Bitch --
Love your name.

Actually, I was unaware that Sweat had expressed remorse at his trial. I'm not sure how much stock I'd put in that, though, there are a lot of killers who "express remorse" because they know it might sway the judge to give them a lighter sentence. His mother -- whom I agree is not much of a mother -- said that she was revolted by his sadism as he was growing up. Of course, I'm not sure whether to believe that, either. But I agree, he never knew much outside of a life of crime.

As far as his sociopathy, I think the pattern of his life was pretty clear, and it's hard to imagine a guy acting as he did -- repeatedly -- without having been one. And it does seem as if he was pretty manipulative with that woman prison employee whom he was having sex with. From what I've read, he certainly wasn't the intimidatingly scary figure that Richard Matt was, but few people -- not even many sociopaths -- reach those heights of malevolence.

MarieCurie said...


Matt asked for Schimpf’s car. Schimpf refused and would testify that Matt said: “You’re my brother. You’re my blood. I love you, but I’ll kill you.”

(A sociopath's definition of "love" is a little different from most people's.)

No doubt.

Absolutely. Horrible. People.