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Judge denies request to take DNA from boyfriend of woman slain in 1978

The murder of Lynn Morningstar in her Tonawanda apartment in 1978 remains unsolved, but it has not been filed away.

Prosecutors were back in Erie County Court last week, asking a judge to order Michael Czysz, the man who reported the murder, to provide a DNA sample to investigators.

Judge Kenneth F. Case denied the request.

This was the second time a judge ruled that there was no probable cause to obtain DNA from Czysz, who was Morningstar’s boyfriend at the time of her death. Another judge made the same decision a year ago.

Outside of court, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Belling said he was not free to discuss in detail why his office was requesting the DNA.

“We are looking for answers to some unanswered questions,” he said.

Case said he denied the motion because the 27 items from the crime scene tested for DNA aren’t sufficient to connect Czysz to the crime.

Even if Czysz’s DNA matched the DNA on the 27 items, he said, “it would only corroborate that he was the victim’s boyfriend at the time as much as anything.”

Morningstar was found in her upstairs flat in her nightgown and robe. She was stabbed roughly 80 times. There was no sign of a break-in, and nothing was taken from the apartment.

Czysz has never denied he may have been the last person to see Morningstar alive other than the killer.

His attorney, Joel Daniels, reminded the court again that Czysz has steadfastly maintained his innocence and gave police a complete timeline of his movements the night Morningstar was killed.

“He said he was her boyfriend and that he had been there that day,” Daniels said. “At about 9 o’clock, he went out and got some wings for their dinner.”

Czysz said about 11 p.m. he went out to a tavern, according to Daniels. When he returned a couple of hours later, he found the door locked, so he went home.

“When he came back Sunday morning, the door was open,” Daniels said. “He went in, he saw the body, and he called 911.”

Saying police examined Czysz’s clothing and car at the time of the murder and that he has never been charged in the crime, Daniels objected to the DNA request outright.

“This is guesswork,” he said. “This is speculation.”

The motion was part of a continuing effort to solve the crime.

Fingerprints and blood samples were collected from Morningstar’s apartment and saved. They have been retested as forensic methods have improved. Investigators had high hopes in 1999, when they were able to use then new forms of DNA testing on items and biological residue from the scene. They also reinterviewed possible witnesses and others close to the victim. No one was charged.

In 2015, the FBI joined the investigation, with a cold-case team working with City of Tonawanda police. Again, law enforcement indicated they could be closing in on the killer. They said two new witnesses came forward with recollections from the night Morningstar was killed and DNA tests had eliminated two potential suspects.

Still, there was no arrest, and, for now, the investigation continues.

email: mmiller@buffnews.com