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'The first day of her new life' Calm demeanor erupts into tears as judge orders release Lynn M. DeJac has her first taste of freedom in more than a dozen years

Lynn M. DeJac stood calm, almost stoic, inside the crowded courtroom, until she heard the words from the judge granting her release from prison.

Then, she broke down and cried.

She left court Wednesday afternoon without comment, leaving others to interpret her private thoughts.

"Today is like the first day of her new life," said her husband, Chuck Peters. "It's time to start over."

Hours earlier, Erie County Senior Judge Michael L. D'Amico ordered she be given a new trial in the 1993 strangling of her daughter, which landed DeJac behind bars more than 13 years ago.

But on Wednesday, DeJac, 44, was set free, while she awaits the new case against her.

Now older and grayer since the last time she was in a courtroom, DeJac turned from the bench, as an Erie County sheriff's deputy fumbled to unlock her handcuffs.

Her cries became sobs.

As she was escorted out, DeJac locked eyes with her supporters. She stopped and, without a word, embraced her family, her husband, teenage twin sons and sister, among them.

A horde of media in pursuit, DeJac darted into an elevator, and once outside jumped into a waiting cab that whisked her away -- her first taste of freedom in more than a decade.

It was the conclusion of a dramatic day for DeJac.

"It's just going to be a period of adjustment for everybody," Peters said.

"She wants time to regroup," said her attorney, Andrew C. LoTempio. "She knows the world has changed a lot in 13 years."
In light of new DNA evidence in DeJac's case, D'Amico on Wednesday morning granted LoTempio's request for a new trial, which is expected four to six months from now.

DeJac got word of the judge's decision just before 9:30 a.m. Wednesday while in the Erie County Holding Center.

Buffalo police Detective Dennis Delano -- a member of the department's Cold Case Squad who has publicly professed DeJac's innocence -- was visiting with her, when he received a cell phone call about D'Amico's ruling, Peters said.

Peters, meanwhile, was on his way to see his wife when a television reporter told him the news of a new trial.

"She gave me a hug when I first walked in there," Peters said, "and she just cried for two or three minutes."

"I'm sorry I'm crying," she told Peters.

"That's OK, let it out," he told her.

DeJac and Peters were married six years ago, while she was serving time at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. The couple has two 13-year-old boys, Keith and Douglas, who were born in 1994, the same year she was imprisoned.

Late Wednesday night, DeJac was at her brother's house on Troupe Street in Lovejoy -- a home decked out with Christmas decorations and, inside, warmed by the company of family and well-wishers, as well as reporters.

DeJac, beaming, initially didn't want to talk to the media but later had a change of heart.

Her first order of freedom:

"I came in here and plopped right into the bed," she said. "I haven't felt a normal bed in 14 years. I've been sleeping on a cot with a mattress about 'this thick," she said, gesturing with her fingers.

Her husband also treated her to steak at the Outback Steakhouse.

"I had a steak. . . . Oh my gosh -- it was like normal," she said.

She had yet to visit the grave of her slain daughter, Crystallynn Girard. She decided to save the visit for a more private time, out of the glare of media attention.

"I haven't been able to go there in 14 years," she said. "I didn't mourn normally."

"I'm overwhelmed, I'm numb," said DeJac, who looked forward to a bath and waking up with her children Thursday morning.

"I don't know what that's going to be like," she said.

Prior to DeJac's release Wednesday, Peters visited his wife at the holding center for about an hour in the morning.

Confident a new trial would clear her name, the two talked about moving on with the next phase of their lives.

Peters went on to describe a little bit of their private conversation.

"I have to buy new clothes. I don't have any clothes," she told him. "Do you have a car?"

"No," he said.

"Well, we'll have to work that out," she said.

In the days leading up to the Wednesday's ruling, DeJac had been confident she would be granted another trial -- this time the DNA evidence proving her innocence.

"I'm surprised at her composure to this point," LoTempio said Wednesday. "She has been saying over and over again, that the facts will set her free.

"In her mind, she needs to be exonerated," LoTempio said. "She wants to walk away with somebody either dismissing the charges because there's not enough proof or a jury [acquittal]."

Her release Wednesday, so soon after the judge's ruling, was anything but certain, though.

In fact, LoTempio visited with DeJac late Tuesday night, and couldn't assure her that she would be set free on Wednesday.

News Staff Reporters Gene Warner and Maki Becker contributed to this report.


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