Judge orders new trial in 1993 murder but discredits theory that prison escapee was the killer

A choose has ordered new trials for 2 males convicted of murdering a lady in 1993 inside her house close to Buffalo, New York, however who’ve all the time maintained their innocence.

Further DNA evaluation and the truth that the unique prosecutors withheld proof that would’ve helped the protection means the convictions of Brian Scott Lorenz and James Pugh ought to be overturned, the choose dominated Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Erie County state Supreme Courtroom Justice Paul Wojtaszek didn’t credit score a sensational declare made throughout a reexamination of the case: that the true killer was Richard Matt, a convicted assassin who escaped from an upstate New York jail in 2015 and was fatally shot by a federal agent.

Deborah Meindl, 33-year-old a nursing scholar and mom of two, was stabbed dozens of instances and strangled inside her house in Tonawanda.

Her husband Donald Meindl, who had a $50,000 life insurance coverage coverage on his spouse and who was carrying on a relationship with a 17-year-old worker on the Taco Bell he managed, was initially a suspect in her homicide however was by no means charged. Donald Meindl died in Could.

Authorities started investigating Lorenz and Pugh on the idea that they have been burglarizing the Meindls’ house and killed Deborah Meindl once they have been found.

Lorenz and Pugh have been charged within the case after Lorenz, then below arrest for one more crime in Iowa, confessed to murdering Meindl and implicated Pugh. Lorenz later stated it was a false confession.

Lorenz, now 52, and Pugh, 61, have been convicted of Meindl’s homicide though each maintained their innocence. Pugh was paroled in 2019 however Lorenz stays in jail.

The case was reopened in 2018 after protection attorneys satisfied a state choose to grant a evaluation of forensic proof, which discovered that neither Lorenz’s nor Pugh’s DNA was on the crime scene, together with on a knife used within the assault.

Erie County District Legal professional John J. Flynn appointed two prosecutors from his workplace to evaluation the case in 2021. Their stunning conclusion was that Matt, who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora with one other convict, was the true killer.

David Sweat, who was recaptured and is again in jail, informed authorities that Matt confessed to him that he murdered Deborah Meindl.

In a letter to The New York Occasions, Sweat claimed that Matt, who was residing close to the home the place the homicide occurred, killed Meindl on orders of a police officer, David Bentley, who later helped lead the investigation into her homicide.

Bentley, who had a detailed relationship with Matt, has denied any function in Meindl’s homicide.

Flynn rejected the findings of his personal prosecutors and opposed the movement to vacate the convictions. A spokesperson for Flynn stated the district legal professional would enchantment the choice.

Wojtaszek didn’t exonerate both Pugh or Lorenz of the killing, and the choose known as the allegation that Matt and Bentley conspired to kill Meindl “nothing greater than hypothesis, conjecture, and surmise with none substantiation or corroboration.”

However Wojtaszek stated a brand new trial was warranted primarily based on the DNA proof and prosecutors’ failure to reveal {that a} witness couldn’t determine a vital piece of proof: a commemorative coin that supposedly linked Lorenz to the crime.

Lorenz’s legal professional praised the choose’s resolution vacating the convictions.

“Scott Lorenz has gone via a three-decade nightmare in jail for a criminal offense he didn’t commit,” Ilann Maazel stated Thursday. “Although the world gave up on him, he by no means gave up on himself or his seek for justice. Scott simply desires to go house, be together with his spouse, and stay in peace.”

Pugh’s legal professional, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, stated it is “an exquisite new day” for his shopper, who since his parole has been residing together with his sister and dealing as a handyman. “He is now not a convicted assassin and he can get on together with his life,” Margulis-Ohnuma stated.

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