- Buffalo, New York -
- Catholic Nun Murdered by Ex-Convict ! -
- The Victim -
- Sister Karen Klimczak - Age 62 -
- 1944 - 2006 † -
- Catholic Nun -
- Ex- Con Parolee -
- Craig M. Lynch - Age 36 -
- Faces Life in Prison Without Parole -
- Sister Karen Klimczak founded "Hope House," a halfway House for "non-violent" ex-convicts, where Craig Lynch was staying when he killed her! -
- Ex-Convict Murders Catholic Nun for a Cell Phone! -
April 18, 2006
Parolee Lived in Her Shelter
By Maki Becker and T.J. Pignataro
News Staff Reporters
Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News
Police say suspect attacked sister during a burglary
Just as 600 people prayed for a miracle that a missing nun who devoted her life to nonviolence would be found alive, authorities made the devastating announcement Monday evening that her body had been recovered and that an ex-convict she tried to help was arrested in her murder.
"We've lost a tireless champion of the people," said Mayor Byron W. Brown while flanked by the detectives who solved the tragic case.
Police said Sister Karen Klimczak, 62, who had lived and worked at Bissonette House, was killed by one of the parolees staying there. The Bissonette house is a halfway house on 335 Grider St. named for the Rev. A. Joseph Bissonette, a priest who was brutally murdered by two "teenagers" in the same building in 1987, at the age of 55. The two "teenagers" who murdered Rev. Bissonette had come to the door asking for food and shelter; father Bissonette invited them in and began making sandwiches for them. The sandwiches went untouched, but Father Bissonette was bound, beaten, and stabbed to death.
The Bissonette House was founded by the Reverend A. Joseph Bissonette, whereas the "Hope House" was founded by Sister Klimczak. The Hope House is a halfway house specifically for "non-violent" ex-convicts, which is at the same address as the Bissonette House. It was unclear from the articles whether there are two separate buildings.
"It is a tremendous tragedy that this repeats itself 19 years later," Mayor Byron Brown said.
Authorities identified the suspect in Sister Karen's murder as Craig M. Lynch, 36, who was released from Wyoming Correctional Facility in January after serving a sentence for an auto theft conviction.
Lynch led police to the nun's body Monday afternoon, police said, while a massive search by more than 50 local and federal law enforcement officers and 100 volunteers was under way in the streets surrounding the East Side halfway house.
Sister Karen was last seen alive at about 9:45 p.m. on Good Friday at the halfway house, authorities said.
Police say they now believe that Lynch had broken into Sister Karen's upstairs room at Bissonette House to try to steal her cell phone when he heard her coming to the door.
Detective Sgt. James P. Lonergan, who headed the investigation, said Lynch hid behind the door, then grabbed the nun from behind and attacked her.
Police believe she was suffocated but were awaiting the results of an autopsy to say for sure how she was killed.
No one realized Sister Karen was missing until she failed to show up for lunch on Saturday with some parolees at Schwabl's restaurant.
"She didn't come," said the Rev. Roy Herberger of SS. Columba & Brigid Catholic Church, a close friend and co-minister to Sister Karen. "Something was wrong."
Although the sister routinely locked herself in her room after 10 p.m., it was not uncommon for her to be called away to help out in an emergency at Erie County Medical Center or for family members to come pick her up and have her stay with them overnight, Herberger said.
Saturday night, a parolee at the house called the police to formally report the nun missing.
Her room appeared unscathed, Herberger said, and her Chevy Malibu was still parked in the lot next to the house with some of her personal items inside.
Police pried open two locked closets and drilled holes into a walk-in safe at the house but found no signs of the nun.
Sunday night, an impromptu search party came across an ominous clue - a white T-shirt, jeans and sneakers that the sister was last seen wearing turned up in a Dumpster behind the Rite-Aid drugstore around the corner from the halfway house.
Monday morning, investigators got a break in the case when a police officer called Sister Karen's cell phone number Monday morning and a man answered the phone.
Police quickly nabbed the man who admitted that he had bought the phone, along with the phone's charger, from Lynch.
Monday afternoon, Lynch was seen handcuffed and being escorted out of an abandoned house across from his mother's home on George Street, a tiny one-way street near the Hasselbeck Cheese Co. warehouse on Jefferson Avenue.
Witnesses said his mother screamed hysterically at him: "Why did you do it? Why did you do it?"
Lynch was heard replying: "It was an accident."
"He initially hid the body behind a house on George Street and he covered it with some debris," Lonergan said. "He went to a shed behind a vacant house and dug a shallow grave, then he brought the body there and put it in the grave."
Homicide detectives believe that Sister Karen's body was left at Bissonette House for a period of time after she was killed while Lynch went to George Street to dig the grave. He then borrowed a vehicle from a family member to transport her body early Saturday and buried it.
No other suspects were involved, Lonergan said.
Lonergan said Sister Karen's body was found "partially clothed"; police said there has been no indication of sexual abuse, however.
Later Monday in the interview room at Police Headquarters, Lynch wept and insisted that he had not meant to kill Sister Karen, Lonergan said.
More than 100 volunteers had converged on Bissonette House on Monday to aid in the search for Sister Karen, splitting into groups of five and six to look in vacant buildings, dilapidated garages and in garbage cans.
"Everyone knows what we are looking for," Northeast Division Chief Anthony Barba told the anxious crowd as they passed out 1,000 copies of a missing person's poster.
"We're hoping we don't find anything," Barba said.
But such hope seemed already distant; Barba instructed the civilian search crews to be on the look out for "anything that looks piled up, like a thing of leaves where there shouldn't be one."
A cadaver dog on loan from the Niagara County Sheriff's Department was on the scene as well.
Among those searching for her was Ray Bissonette, the brother of the slain priest.
"This just brings back a lot of memories of the days after my brother died," he said.
But Bissonette also was moved at the outpouring from the community and the diversity of those who showed up to help look for Sister Karen.
"That's testimony to what they saw in her," he said. "Maybe at first, there was some questions about her motives. People'd say, "Who's this white lady in a black community?' But it didn't take long for her to generate an awful lot of affection and respect."
Sister Karen's sister, who is also a nun, said before learning that her sister was dead, she knew no matter what, that God was with her.
"Since Sunday, I have experienced just a deep peace," said Sister Jean Klimczak, who so closely resembles Sister Karen that many did double takes as she walked into Bissonette House on Monday afternoon.
"God is with her," she said. "God will continue to guide her."
Monday evening at 7 p.m., just as the news conference was held at Police Headquarters about the grim discovery, hundreds packed Ephesus Ministries, the church adjacent to Bissonette House.
Word had not yet gotten to those gathered that the sister's body had been found.
And so they prayed, clinging to a sliver of hope, inside the church adorned with white paper doves, reminiscent of Sister Karen's "Nonviolence Begins With Me" signs she made popular throughout Western New York.
Antwan Diggs, a current resident of Bissonette House, recalled how Sister Karen told him not to be afraid of challenges in life after prison.
He read from Matthew 7:7 - "Knock and the door will be opened for you."
Herberger fondly recalled how Sister Karen bristled when people would ask her: "Aren't you afraid of all those guys in the house?"
"She'd get ticked off," he said. "She had absolutely no sense of fear."
Lynch was expected to be arraigned this morning on second-degree murder charges.
- Ex-Convict, Craig Lynch, stole Sister Klimczak's cell phone and sold it to someone on the street. How much do you think he got for it? $10 - maybe $20! Remember now - the charging device was included! -
- Sister Karen
Klimczak dedicated her life to those less fortunate than herself -
- Craig Lynch claims that he was high on drugs and that he didn't mean to kill Sister Klimczak! -
Buffalo, NY, April 18, 2006
Craig Lynch had been living since April 5 in Hope House, a halfway house Klimczak founded in 1989 for nonviolent ex-convicts.
The body of a missing Catholic nun was found Monday after her stolen cell phone led police to a parolee who was living in the home for former prison inmates where she worked, authorities said.
Craig Lynch, 36, confessed to killing Sister Karen Klimczak but said it was an accident, police said. He was in police custody and was expected to be charged with second-degree murder and larceny.
The body of Klimczak, 62, was found behind an abandoned house about five miles from her home, said Detective Sgt. Jim Lonergan. It was in a shallow grave inside a shed, and it looked as if she might have been suffocated or strangled. There were no gun or knife wounds, he said.
Lynch had stolen Sister Karen Klimczak's cell phone Friday night and sold it to someone on the street, Lonergan said.
It was not immediately clear how the cell phone led police to Lynch.
Lynch had been living since April 5 in Hope House, a halfway house Klimczak founded in 1989 for nonviolent ex-convicts, police said. Authorities could provide few details on his criminal history but said he had stolen property in the past.
Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson said that Lynch called the killing "an accident" and that he was in Klimczak's room trying to steal her cell phone when she came home Friday evening.
Lynch also confessed to being high on drugs, police said.
Klimczak was last seen Friday night at Bissonette House, where she lived. The residence is at the same address as Hope House.
Some of her clothing, the phone and other items were found in two trash bins near the home, Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson said.
Church members became concerned when the nun missed several appointments Saturday and failed to show up for Easter services.
See Original Articles
Sister Karen Klimczak dedicated her life to those less fortunate than herself. This is yet another tragic case of a female social worker being killed by one of the people who she was trying to help. How can we maintain any semblance of civilization when we have people amongst us who have absolutely no respect for human life?
It is, of course, doubly tragic that the Bissonette House's namesake, the Reverend A. Joseph Bissonette, was murdered in the same house nineteen years earlier by two "teenagers." One wonders whether or not the "teenagers" were any relation to Craig M. Lynch. There is no question but that social work in "changing neighborhoods" is a dangerous profession. Perhaps this type of work should be left to highly trained professionals such as parole and probation officers, jailers, and wardens.
Craig Lynch has been charged with second-degree murder, and we can't forget that there were mitigating circumstances - he was high on drugs and he didn't really mean to kill her...it just sort of happened - as he himself said: "It was an accident." If he gets a good lawyer and negotiates a plea-bargain, he could get off with a sentence of 15 years. With good behavior he could be out of prison in 10 to 12 years. He'll only be about 46 years old - he'll have a chance to start a new life for himself. Unfortunately, he won't be eligible to stay at the "Hope House" when he is released, because, as we all know, the "Hope House" is only for "non-violent" ex-convicts. But, who knows, maybe by then the people at "Hope House" will have become more tolerant. Who knows?
Yours Faithfully, Liberty