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Details emerge in cause of murder victim's death

October 11, 2011

On Tuesday afternoon, forensic pathologist Dr. Eric Vey, M.D., of the Erie County Coroner's Office, was at the Elk County Courthouse presenting details on the cause of death of Irene Challingsworth during the homicide trial of Lawrence Earl Donachy, 36, of St. Marys. Donachy has been charged with rape, murder and other counts in the death of Challingsworth, which took place on April 6, 1999.
Elk County District Attorney Bradley Kraus and defense attorneys George Daghir and Shawn McMahon accepted Vey as an expert witness in forensic pathology as part of the trial.
Vey covers 12 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania, including Elk County. He is currently in his 18th year of practice.
He testified that Elk County Coroner Lou Radkowski requested an autopsy be performed on Challingsworth. The autopsy was expedited and began just before 5:30 p.m. on April 6 in Erie. Radkowski, along with former St. Marys City Police Sergeant Phil Hoh and Officer Steve Skrzypek, along with several autopsy technicians, were present. Portions of the autopsy were videotaped as well.
Upon his initial examination of Challingsworth, Vey testified he observed three stab wounds to the neck and ligature marks on her neck and forearms.
Vey determined Challingsworth's manner of death was homicide, with the cause of death attributed to a fatal stab wound in her neck.
He stated the second stab wound was the fatal of the three, measuring 12 centimeters long and 4-4.5 inches deep, cutting through an artery and a vein. All stab wounds were inflicted at the same time and were done in a "backward, downward and right direction."
Vey testified it took less than 43 minutes for Challingsworth to die after being stabbed. Nearly 1.5 liters of blood collected in her right chest cavity due to her breathing in blood through holes in her windpipe caused by the stab wounds. Vey said because of this, Challingsworth likely went into respiratory distress and shock.
Vey said trauma in addition to the stab wounds was also found on Challlingsworth's body. The other fresh injuries included a small contusion on her lower left eyelid, a small laceration inside her upper lip, and bruises on her right arm and left thigh. A burn mark was also found on her thigh, which Vey said would have been made after her death.

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