Art may calm disturbed minds, but Richard Matt’s knack for drawing didn’t keep him from snapping his 72-year-old boss’s neck in 1997. It did, however, help him bust out of prison.
According to the New York Times, prison guard Gene Palmer gave Matt and his fellow jailbird David Sweat a screwdriver and pliers, among other favors, in exchange for a dozen amateurish drawings and paintings Palmer later described as being “elaborate.” The two inmates used the screwdriver and pliers (along with other tools) to escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in northern New York on June 6.
Though images of the artwork have not been released — and reports suggest that Palmer subsequently burned and buried them — a friend who owns several of Matt’s creations allowed CNYCentral to photograph them. They reveal a talent for cheesy, fan-boy drawings and paintings of the kind you find at Central Park, with everyone from Julia Roberts to Hillary Clinton rendered in painstakingly blended pencils and charcoal.
They’re hardly the type of pictures you’d expect a convicted murderer to create, and they feel strangely melancholic in light of Matt’s capture and death. One picture of Oprah Winfrey includes gushing, cursive text that reads, “She changed so many lives.” Another shows President Barack Obama shadowed by Martin Luther King Jr. — an apparent homage to the civil rights movement and a glimmer of the humanity Matt so sadly squandered.