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Clinton Correctional escapee David Sweat testifies in hearing focused on 1993 Tonawanda murder case

David Sweat told the court that Richard Matt admitted to him while they were in prison that he killed the victim, Deborah Meindl.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Six years ago, two men broke out of Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, leading police on a statewide manhunt.

One of those men -- Richard Matt was killed by police -- the other David Sweat was caught and on Tuesday, testified in a 1993 murder case in the City of Tonawanda. 

Sweat told the court that Matt admitted to him while they were in prison that he killed the victim, Deborah Meindl. Twenty-eight years ago Meindl, a nursing student at Sister's Hospital, was strangled and stabbed to death in her City of Tonawanda home.

Sweat testified that Matt says he stabbed her and burglarized her home. 

Defense attorneys argue that the two men convicted of killing Meindl -- James Pugh and Brian Scott Lorenz -- are innocent. 

"As we've laid the table, you're going to roll out that there's details, he knew about the crime the fact that Matt told him about it I think we'll all have to listen carefully to what he has to say and yeah, maybe we'll take it with a grain of salt of if people who are in a position to investigate and make sure that no one's getting away with anything, will hopefully do that," said Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, a criminal defense attorney on the case.

The court also heard more testimony from former Erie County prosecutor David Heraty, who re-investigated Meindl's killing for the DA's office and opened the possibility that someone else could be the killer. The prosecution tried to discredit Heraty, trying to paint him as a renegade who went against protocol and didn't share information with the DA's office. 

"I think Mr. Hariety was following his conscious, I think he is a heroic public servant in seeking the truth and I think for purely political reasons you just heard about this office tried to suppress that truth and I don't think anybody should let him get away with it," Margulis-Ohnuma said.

Heraty testified that in August he went to Auburn Correctional Facility and interviewed Sweat about Matt's possible involvement in the death of Meindl. Heraty says he gave details about Meindl's murder and testified he was "absolutely not trying to get him to say anything." 

The prosecutor on the case, Colleen Curtin Gable said, "Rule one is you don't give a jailhouse informant information."

Heraty also admitted that he opened a file into the investigation and didn't have anyone at the DA's office approve of. 

"That was my mistake" Heraty said.

He also testified that he spoke to defense attorneys about activity in the DA's office on the investigation.

The prosecution asked, "Did you think that was proper?"

"I didn't think it was improper," Heraty said. He also added that DA John Flynn yelled at him for disclosing information to defense attorneys that wasn't immediately shared internally with prosecutors. 

Another key takeaway from the hearing was Heraty saying, "The DA said he couldn't go in front of the cameras and say a detective was involved," referring to former City of Tonawanda Detective David Bentley -- who defense attorneys argue obstructed the investigation into Matt. 

District Attorney John Flynn stands by his statement released last month that says in part: "There is no credible evidence to link Richard Matt to the murder of Deborah Meindl," and that, "he disagreed with the conclusion of the reinvestigation due to a lack of any credible evidence."

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