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Court arguments: Richard Matt may be connected to a 1993 murder

Questions are being raised of whether Richard Matt may be responsible for the murder of Deborah Meindl in 1993 in the City of Tonawanda.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Many will never forget the statewide manhunt six years ago for two men who escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility upstate. 

Now arguments are being made in court that one of the men who escaped, Richard Matt, may be responsible for a murder for which two other men were convicted. 

When Matt and David Sweat escaped from Clinton Correctional, the entire state was on edge. Matt was eventually killed by police, and Sweat was caught. 

Now in New York State Supreme Court, questions are being raised of whether Matt may be responsible for the murder of Deborah Meindl in 1993 in the City of Tonawanda. 

According to a Buffalo News article back then, two men, James Pugh and Brian Scott Lorenz, were accused of strangling Meindl after she found them burglarizing her home. A Buffalo News article says that a witness testified that Lorenz bragged about the murder.

The state's inmate system says Lorenz was sentenced to 37 years to life.

Pugh has been out of jail and was in court Wednesday. Pugh declined to do an interview, but when 2 On Your Side asked him if he had any comment, he responded that he's always been innocent. 

"They did not know Deborah Meindl, they didn't know the Meindl family, they never went to their house, they had nothing to do with this horrible crime," defense attorney Ilann M. Maazel said.

Defense attorneys say they've received notes from prosecutors reinvestigating this case and argued in court that a detective had a close relationship with Richard Matt.

And that three years ago, DNA testing done in Erie County Central Police Services excluded Lorenz and Pugh from all physical evidence in the case. 

"The prosecution is a sham, there's no other word for it," Maazel said.

But prosecutors say Richard Matt's DNA was also excluded. Colleen Curtin Gable, a prosecutor for the DA's Office, led oral arguments for the prosecution. Erie County DA John Flynn says in a statement: 

"There is no credible evidence to link Richard Matt to the murder of Deborah Meindl. There is also no evidence that Deborah Meindl had a romantic relationship with Detective David Bentley. These two narratives asserted by defense counsel representing Brian Scott Lorenzo and James Pugh are false.

Any assertion that the two prosecutors initially assigned to investigate this matter were removed from the case or reassigned because I did not agree with their findings is not true. I, along with my entire senior leadership team, several of my senior bureau chiefs and most experienced trial attorneys, disagreed with their conclusions due to a lack of any credible evidence. Both attorneys did not accept my decision with the professionalism expected of career prosecutors. Ultimately, I made the decision to remove both prosecutors from the case.

While I cannot comment further on personnel matters, I can confirm that both prosecutors were later reassigned after I made the decision to remove them from the case. One prosecutor was relieved of his Bureau Chief position. He continues to work as an Assistant District Attorney in the Appeals Bureau. The other prosecutor was not demoted, but reassigned from the Appeals Bureau to the office’s Felony Trials Bureau.

It is incumbent on defense counsel to submit new, credible evidence that establishes that these defendants did not commit this murder in order to vacate their conviction or re-open the criminal case. Without any new, credible evidence, I will continue to oppose this motion.

I anticipate that all issues raised in this matter will be litigated in the course of the proceedings that will include submissions by both parties and in arguments before the Court. Our office cannot comment further on this matter as the 440 motion is pending."

Defense attorneys argued that Lorenz should be released from prison immediately. State Supreme Court Judge Christopher Burns says he'll review documents related to the case. 

He has set a temporary court hearing in December. Defense attorneys say they're interested in calling David Sweat as a witness. 

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