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37 years after Morningstar murder, FBI joins Tonawanda police in probe

The person who has gotten away with murder for 37 years in the brutal slaying of Lynn Morningstar now has more to think about.

The FBI has joined in the quest to bring the killer to justice.

“A lot of fresh ideas have come forward in the progress of the case,” Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Buffalo, said in explaining how new digital technologies and advances in DNA testing are allowing investigators to pursue new leads.

The FBI’s recently formed cold-case working group began assisting City of Tonawanda police last June, but officials intentionally waited to announce the collaboration until Thursday, the 37th anniversary of when Morningstar was found by her boyfriend stabbed and beaten to death in her Delaware Street apartment.

The anniversary announcement, police said, was intended to make it clear that the passage of time has not lessened their fervor to put the murderer behind bars.

Investigators have developed a number of leads in the case:

• Two new witnesses have come forward and provided authorities with their recollections.

• Recent DNA testing has eliminated two acquaintances of the 27-year-old woman as potential suspects.

• DNA testing also has provided police with additional leads, and more DNA testing is planned on the hundreds of items that were taken from the crime scene and preserved for all these years.

“I would say we are closer today than we were a week ago,” Tonawanda Police Chief William L. Strassburg II said at Thursday’s news conference.

Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis weighed in on the renewed effort to find justice for Morningstar and her relatives, who include her parents, in their 90s, and siblings.

“I have the utmost faith in the firepower standing behind me to hunt down this animal,” Davis said.

And the mayor’s message to the killer was, “Don’t get too comfortable.”

Michael G. Czysz, the boyfriend, found Morningstar on March 19, 1978. Czysz, who was 25 at the time, had told police he had gone to visit her when he made the discovery. Over the years, police have described him as a suspect but have added that there may be others.

At the news conference, authorities were asked if he is still a suspect.

“Everybody and anybody who was part of her circle is a possibility,” Detective Capt. Michael E. Rogers said of Morningstar, who had worked as a clerk at a dry cleaners. “We are letting the evidence take us where ever it will go.”

Czysz, now 62 and a retired factory worker living in the Southern Tier, has been represented for decades by Buffalo defense attorney Joel L. Daniels. The attorney continues to point out that he provided police with an explanation that his client was elsewhere at the time of the slaying and that police checked and confirmed his whereabouts.

Does the passage of so much time make it more difficult to solve the murder?

Boetig said that there are different ways to look at a cold case.

“There’s an irony here with time,” he said. “Sometimes, time is what we need. One of the biggest detriments in cold cases is tunnel vision. You drive down that same road without going down other avenues.”

Rogers had a final message for the killer:

“We’re reminded daily of Lynn Morningstar by a picture of her on the wall of the Detective Bureau, and of bringing this case to justice.”

email: lmichel@buffnews.com