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Suspect said he killed nun accidentally

Craig M. Lynch said he accidentally killed Sister Karen Klimczak earlier this year because he was "afraid she would send him back to jail" for stealing her cell phone, a homicide detective testified Monday.

Lynch, 36, went on trial Friday before Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio on charges of first- and second-degree murder and other charges in the death of the 62-year-old nun who was director of Bissonette House, the halfway house where Lynch was living. He faces a mandatory life term without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

The jury trial continues today.

Detective Mark J. Vaughn testified Monday that on April 17, Lynch took him and three other police officials to a makeshift grave where he had buried the nun across from his mother's George Street home.

An hour earlier, Lynch allegedly left a message on his cousin's cell phone saying he had accidentally killed the nun. His cousin, Alvin Lynch, had shared that information with detectives before they picked up Craig Lynch, Vaughn said.

Vaughn testified Lynch initially denied knowing anything about Sister Karen's disappearance. But after detectives told him they knew the nun's cell phone had been sold on the street by someone driving a minivan like the one Lynch said he had been driving, Lynch said he took the phone from her empty bedroom. Lynch said he sold the phone "for a $10 rock of crack cocaine."

Then, when detectives confronted him about the message he left his cousin, Lynch "started to cry" and confessed, Vaughn said.

Lynch said he struck her because "he was afraid she would send him back to jail" for the theft and for violating halfway house rules, the detective testified.

In other testimony Monday, State Parole Officer Charles Sears told the jury Lynch initially "seemed unconcerned" about the nun's disappearance when he and the 11 other residents of the halfway house were questioned by their parole officers last April 17.

Sears told the jury Lynch was handcuffed at the State Parole office at the Donovan State Office Building that morning after he tested "dirty" for recent illicit drug use, the only one of the parolee-residents who tested positive for drugs.

Sears said Lynch "seemed pretty down" as he read him his rights as a criminal suspect.

The jury learned that an aide to Sister Karen found Lynch rushing to wash his clothing and discarding a mattress and comforter on Saturday, April 15. When that aide confronted Lynch with the fact that under house rules, Lynch was allowed to wash his clothing on Fridays only, Lynch demanded to know why the nun had failed to show up for a scheduled lunch with house residents April 15.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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