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Lynch found guilty of felony murder Sister Karen's killer doesn't testify, but jury hears his confession

Craig M. Lynch was found guilty late Friday of the Good Friday slaying of Sister Karen Klimczak.

Lynch was found not guilty, however, of intentionally killing or robbing Klimczak.

Deliberations began about 4:30 p.m. following a weeklong trial before Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio. Shortly after 11:30 p.m., the jury returned with verdicts of guilty on charges of second-degree felony murder, first-degree manslaughter and burglary.

The verdicts were returned after several hours of questions by jurors. Lynch -- dressed in blue jeans and an untucked blue-gray button-down shirt -- looked at his mother in the spectator area and raised his eyebrows.

Lynch could face a maximum of 25 years to life in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. March 7. He is being held without bail.

Defense Attorney David R. Addelman said the verdict was what the defense was hoping for -- that the jury would find Lynch didn't purposely kill Klimczak.

"He didn't intend to kill Sister Karen," Addelman said. "He certainly caused the death, and for that he will pay a stiff price."

Prosecutors deferred comment on the verdict to District Attorney Frank J. Clark, who was not immediately available.

The gallery of spectators included about a dozen nuns who were associated with Klimczak.

The victim's sister, Sister Jean Klimczak, declined to say whether she was satisfied with the verdict.

"Karen lived and she died because she loved unconditionally," Jean Klimczak said, outside the courtroom.

Lynch did not testify and his defense did not present any witnesses. His lawyer urged the jury to acquit him of intentionally killing the nun while stealing her cell phone.

The jury listened to 12 prosecution witnesses and Lynch's confession made three days after the killing. It was considering two counts of intentional first-degree murder, one count of intentional second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree felony murder.

The panel also considered single counts of burglary and robbery and first-degree manslaughter for causing the death by seriously injuring the nun.

Deputy District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III urged the jury to convict Lynch of intentionally killing the nun, telling them to "hold him responsible for his choices and his actions."

Sister Karen, director of Bissonette House, a halfway facility for recently paroled men, was slain in her second-floor bedroom at that Grider Street facility about 9 p.m. last April 14 and buried in a makeshift grave on George Street across from the home of Lynch's mother.

Nine days before the killing, Lynch had become the twelfth parolee-resident of the halfway house, after being released from prison in a stolen car case.

The jury learned through the written confession Lynch gave homicide detectives last April 17 that he initially went to talk to Sister Karen about 9 p.m. last April 14, found her bedroom door open and the room vacant, and decided to steal her cell phone. Lynch, the jury learned, panicked when she returned. He said he hid behind her door and grabbed her from behind to cover her mouth, only to have them both fall to her carpeted floor with him on top as she struggled until she lost consciousness.

Addelman told the jury that Lynch's clumsy handling of evidence and his decision to bury his victim proved he "is not a criminal mastermind."

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com and tpignataro@buffnews.com

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