Inside the Elk County Courthouse on day three of the homicide trial of a man accused of the April 6, 1999 rape and murder of St. Marys beautician Irene Challingsworth, jurors listened to testimony from Pennsylvania State Police scientists and Challingsworth's former boyfriend. Lawrence Earl Donachy, 36, of St. Marys, is charged with one count each of homicide, rape, burglary, aggravated assault, criminal attempt at arson and unlawful restraint.
The first witness to take the stand Wednesday morning was Tom Feldbauer of St. Marys, Challingsworth's former boyfriend of over 16 years.
In 1999, Feldbauer said he was employed at Keystone Carbon Company as a diesetter in the hot forming department, working the midnight to 8 a.m. shift.
According to Feldbauer, each evening he departed his Wehler Road home around 11:30 p.m. His commute to work took him down S. Michael Street onto Mill Street, where he frequently drove past Challingsworth's Walnut Street home, then onto the Boulevard and SR120 to Keystone. Feldbauer said he often stopped by her home on his way to work to say a quick hello and goodnight.
He stated that he was always early to work to check in with the previous shift regarding any special work orders. He typically punched in at the time clock between 11:35-11:40 p.m.
On the evening of Sunday, April 5, 1999, Feldbauer testified that as he drove by Challingsworth's home he observed the shop lights were on; however, this was not unusual, as Mondays were her days off and that was when she did her own hair to look good for her customers the next day.
Feldbauer said he did not stop at her home that night. He ventured off his usual route slightly to mail letters at the St. Marys Post Office.
On April 5, Feldbauer said he worked a full shift, returned home, cleaned up, then went to bed.
The morning of April 6, Feldbauer said he was awoken by his father, who said the St. Marys City Police (SMPD) were at his door and needed to question him about an incident. SMPD Officers Steve Skryzpek and Phil Hoh questioned him about his whereabouts the evening of April 5.
Feldbauer's brother informed him of Challingsworth's death while the police officers were present at his home.
He recalled going to Challingsworth's home shortly after her homicide to help clean the house. Challingsworth's daughter Kelly Bauer initially joined him, but Feldbauer said she left because she could not handle being there. He visited the house 2-3 times in order to clean the bathroom and bedroom walls of blood splatter, adding that everything needed to be disinfected.
Feldbauer testified that he initially did not take any items from the home, but after reading his statement to police furnished by defense attorney Shawn McMahon, he said he took Challingsworth's two shotguns home. He eventually returned them to her house, as they were of no use to him and they were eventually given to her brothers. He added that it struck him as odd when he initially saw the shotguns in her bedroom, thinking that if it were a burglary, the criminals would have taken the guns.
He noted that police were aware he was cleaning the home.
Pick up a copy of the Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.