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Nun's slaying accidental, defense says Prosecutor contends Sister Karen's killer chose his actions

Just nine days out of prison, Craig M. Lynch "fell off the wagon" and was high on crack cocaine when he "panicked" and accidentally killed Sister Karen Klimczak, his attorney said during the opening of Lynch's murder trial Friday.

Addressing the jury before Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio, David R. Addelman said, Lynch "knows you are going to hold him responsible" for the April 14 death of Klimczak, the director of the Bissonette halfway house.

Addelman said he will attempt to get acquittals for Lynch, 36, on first-degree murder and second-degree intentional murder charges. He said his client, whom he described as "a broken man," intended only to steal the nun's cell phone "to get high" again.

Meanwhile, Deputy District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Lynch -- who confessed to the crime within days of the slaying and took police to the garage where he buried the nun's body -- made a conscious choice to kill Klimczak.

Sedita also noted Lynch did not confess until he was confronted by the statement of a cousin who loaned him the vehicle that Lynch used to transport the nun's body.

Lynch buried her body in a garage across the street from his mother's George Street home.

Sedita also cited autopsy findings that Klimczak, 62, died of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation. Sedita said he will prove Lynch smothered his victim after knocking her out when she confronted him in her room at the halfway house.

Facing the possibility of life in prison without parole, Lynch was indicted on first- and second-degree murder and burglary charges.

With Lynch's mother in the courtroom, Addelman insisted Lynch killed Klimczak "out of desperation and panic," realizing he faced a return to prison. He had just finished a term for probation violation in a stolen car case.

The trial resumes Monday.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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