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Police personnel, acquaintance testify in Donachy trial

October 11, 2011

During the second day of the trial of Lawrence Earl Donachy, testimony was heard from Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Jeff Lee, former St. Marys City Police Sergeant Phil Hoh and Denise Zuchowski, Donachy's former roommate. Donachy, 36, of St. Marys, is charged in the April 6, 1999 rape and murder of Irene Challingsworth, a St. Marys beautician.
Lee, who works for the Punxsutawney-based PSP Criminal Investigation Section, was the first to take the stand Tuesday morning. In 1999, he worked with the PSP's Forensic Services Unit, where his duties included preserving and collecting evidence from crime scenes.
The St. Marys City Police Department contacted state police the morning of the Challingsworth homicide and requested their assistance at the crime scene.
Lee and fellow PSP Corporal Jeffrey Kunselman met at Challingsworth's Walnut Street residence, which doubled as her beauty shop on the ground floor. While there, they photographed the scene and documented and collected evidence.
Defense attorney Shawn McMahon questioned Lee, who stated Kunselman's report noted the vehicle parked in the driveway was unlocked. Lee explained that he dusted for fingerprints in the kitchen, bathroom and vehicle. He did not dust light switches in either the living room or Challingsworth's attached beauty shop, the stairway banister, sink and tub faucets or in the porch's screen door. He did dust the exterior doorknobs and said all the doors were examined, but not all were dusted for fingerprints. No identifiable prints were found on other doors, meaning there was lack of sufficient detail to be able to compare them with anything.
Fingerprints were also obtained from a small table, tops of kitchen chairs, a coffee mug and the sink.
Evidence collected at the scene was turned over to St. Marys City Police Officer Kellogg.
Former St. Marys City Police Sergeant Phil Hoh was next to take the stand. He testified that he arrived on the scene after hearing of the incident over a dispatch. Former St. Marys City Police Sergeant John Lovett and ambulance personnel were already on the scene upon Hoh's arrival, with EMS personnel stating they had not been inside due to it being a crime scene.
Hoh said he was only in the home for approximately 10 minutes before he escorted Challingsworth's body, along with Elk County Coroner Lou Radkowski, to the Erie County Crime Lab, where an autopsy was performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Eric Vey, M.D. of the Erie County Coroner's Office. They departed St. Marys at 2:30 p.m., traveling in Radkowski's private vehicle.
Hoh was present during the autopsy and collection of evidence from Challingsworth's body, which was transferred to Hoh, transported back to St. Marys and prepared to send away to a crime lab.
During his testimony, Hoh also opened several pieces of evidence collected during the autopsy, including a bra used as a ligature around Challingsworth's neck, a pair of pantyhose used to restrain her wrists, a blue nightshirt which she was wearing at the time of her murder and vaginal swabs obtained as part of a rape kit.

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