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The former accomplice of slain escaped murderer Richard Matt told NBC News he is relieved that the "nightmare" is finally over.
Matt, 49, was fatally shot Friday by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection tactical team after three weeks on the run. Matt's fellow escapee, David Sweat, is still on the loose.
Lee Bates, who was convicted and served time for his role in a 1997 murder carried out by Matt, told NBC News that the he had "never met or seen anybody so vicious, so cruel and dangerous" in his life.
"If you really wanted to know what the devil looked like, take a picture of Richard Matt, look at a picture of Richard Matt," Bates told NBC News on Saturday. "That was the devil."
Bates, 38, testified against the Matt at his murder trial, describing how Matt had beaten, bound and eventually killed the boss who fired him. He was paroled in August, and told NBC News it had been "extremely difficult" living in Matt's shadow since then — even more so since Matt and Sweat used power tools to make a daring escape from New York's Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6.
"It feels like finally a nightmare is over, and I woke up," he said. "Unfortunately, someone lost their life, but that nightmare is over."
Bates said he had been worried Matt might come looking for him after the escape, adding that he hopes the escaped convict's death gives some comfort to those he hurt.
"I was a young, young man at 20 years old when that happened," Bates said. "And I can’t change what happened, but I hope that everybody... touched by that act can find the final closure and peace at this point."
More than 1,000 law enforcement personnel continued to search for Sweat near the town of Malone, New York, on Saturday, setting up a 22-square-mile perimeter and breaking out flood lights when night fell. Two prison workers have been charged with aiding the escape.