On Monday afternoon, Elk County President Judge Richard Masson handed down a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole to Lawrence Earl Donachy, 36, of St. Marys, who was found guilty of second-degree murder in the April 5-6, 1999 homicide of Irene Challingsworth, a 56-year-old St. Marys beautician.
A 12-member jury consisting of Butler County residents announced their verdict on Oct. 20, 2011 at the Elk County Courthouse following a nearly two-week trial. In addition to second-degree homicide, Donachy was found guilty of additional first-degree felony charges of rape, burglary and aggravated assault. Challingsworth's beauty shop was attached to her house in downtown St. Marys and she was found in her bedroom the morning of April 6, 1999, by her first customer of the day, who began searching Challingsworth's home in order to locate the victim after Challingsworth had uncharacteristically failed to appear for the appointment.
As part of the sentencing, Challingsworth's family members had an opportunity to address Donachy. Among those speaking were Challingsworth's daughter, Kelly Bauer of St. Marys, who also testified during the preliminary hearing and trial; Challingsworth's sisters, Jane Bologna of St. Marys and Darlene Pollino of Kersey; and her niece and goddaughter Alicia Shriver, 27, of Kersey.
There were approximately 25 members of the Challingsworth family in attendance at the sentencing.
Donachy's attorneys, George Daghir and Shawn McMahon, were in agreeance that Donachy would not speak at the sentencing.
"It goes beyond the court to be able to make things whole," Masson said. "I fully realize today won't result in resolution and that many questions remain unanswered. I hope today will provide some sort of closure to what happened 12 and a half years ago."
Donachy was sentenced to be incarcerated at a State Correctional Institute in Pittsburgh with credit for time served since July 17, 2008.
Masson merged the charges of rape, burglary and aggravated assault, which carry a sentence of 20 years with fines not to exceed $20,000. The second-degree homicide charge carries a fine not to exceed $50,000. Masson considered the offense gravity score, which rates each of the charges, with rape being 12 points, assault 11 points, burglary nine points and one point for a prior record.
According to Masson, the court has no discretion in crafting a sentence for second-degree homicide.
On Dec. 16, 2011, Donachy met with the sexual offenders assessment board, which reported results that he was not a sexually violent predator; however, as part of the sentencing aspect of the hearing Masson required Donachy to register under Megan's Law for the rest of his life, as the offense of rape makes this a requirement.
This assessment was a requirement for Donachy which was completed prior to his sentencing, along with a pre-sentencing investigation report, during which restitution costs were determined as $3,648.55 to the victim's compensation assistance program; $641.30 to Erie Insurance and $28,721.25 for prosecution costs.
Masson noted Donachy still owes $5,400 in previous fines, costs and restitution in Elk and McKean counties. Masson did not impose a fine as he stated Donachy will not be able to pay it. These include a $250 DNA testing fee or monthly supervisor fees as he will be incarcerated. Donachy is also ineligible for risk reduction incentive as he has been convicted of personal injury crimes.
Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.