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Body of prison escapee released to New York funeral home
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Body of prison escapee released to New York funeral home

FILE - This combination of file photos released by the New York State Police shows David Sweat, left, and Richard Matt. Matt, who staged a brazen escape from an upstate maximum-security prison with Sweat and had been hunted for three weeks was shot and killed Friday, June 26, 2015. Sweat was shot and captured on Sunday, June 28. (New York State Police via AP, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The body of a convicted murderer who broke out of prison and was fatally shot after three weeks on the run was released to a funeral home Thursday as his fellow escapee continued his recovery at a hospital under heavy guard.

Richard Matt’s body was being transported from a northern New York hospital to a funeral home before being taken about six hours away to Tonawanda, in western New York, said the director of the Heald Funeral Home in Plattsburgh.

Matt’s estranged son in the Buffalo area had said he would claim the body. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Matt escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora on June 6 with David Sweat, another convicted killer. Matt was shot dead June 26. Sweat was shot and captured June 28. He was listed in fair condition at an Albany hospital.

Authorities said the inmates cut through their adjoining cell walls over months, climbed down catwalks to tunnels, got hold of contractors’ tools, broke through a brick wall, cut into and out of a steam pipe and cut a chain holding a manhole cover outside the prison to get away.

The escape by Sweat and Matt launched a massive 23-day manhunt amid the rugged northern New York terrain involving more than 1,100 law enforcement officers.

A U.S. border patrol sector chief, John Pfeifer, said Thursday that a member of the patrol’s tactical team opened fire after Matt aimed a 20-gauge shotgun at the officer. It was the first indication that Matt aimed the weapon, which he had taken from a hunting camp. Officials earlier had said the agent shot Matt when he failed to comply with commands to raise his hands.

Pfeifer could give only a few details of Matt’s death because of the ongoing investigation. But he said the tactical team that found Matt lying down behind a fallen tree was made up of members from a sector based in Swanton, Vermont, and from Texas.

Pfeifer said one of the escapees stole alcohol from a camp, but he did say whether Matt or Sweat had stolen it. He said he didn’t know if Matt was drunk when he was shot and killed.

Toxicology results were pending on Matt’s autopsy.

State police investigating the escape on Thursday asked owners of seasonal homes and camps in the heavily wooded area around the prison to check for missing or left-behind items. State police piecing together the pair’s path during their three weeks on the lam are asking for property checks in specific areas of a handful of towns west of the prison.

People who discover items left at their property or missing items are asked to call state police.

New York budget officials have started to piece together the cost of the manhunt but have to gather more information from all the state agencies involved, spokesman Morris Peters said. It was premature to provide an estimate or range, he said.

A prison tailor shop employee and a guard have been charged with helping the inmates escape. Several other prison employees have been placed on leave. A range of new security measures is being put in place at the maximum-security prison to close gaps the inmates exploited.

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