Lawrence Earl Donachy, 36, of St. Marys, has been 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 Butler County jury concluded their nearly 15 hours of deliberations at approximately 10:20 a.m. Thursday morning at the Elk County Courthouse, when Elk County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Richard Masson announced a verdict had been reached. The jury foreman announced the verdict, which found Donachy guilty of second-degree murder, rape, burglary and aggravated assault, all of which are first-degree felonies. He was found not guilty of first-degree murder or arson.
Masson said a second-degree murder carries a life sentence. Donachy, represented by attorneys George Daghir and Shawn McMahon, will be sentenced at a later date to be determined. Prior to sentencing, Donachy will be assessed by a member of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB) to determine whether he meets the legal criteria for classification as a sexually violent predator. This report will be presented at sentencing.
Donachy must also provide a DNA sample and was not permitted bail due to the severity and verdict of the crime.
The jury began deliberations on Tuesday, where they convened for 5.5 hours as well an entire 8 hours on Wednesday and just over one hour on Thursday morning beginning at 9 a.m. Deliberations totaled nearly 15 hours and concluded on the ninth day of the trial.
Thursday's trial proceedings began at 9 a.m., when Masson immediately dismissed the jury from the courtroom to the deliberation room. Prior to the reading of the verdict, Masson cautioned those observing the trial that there was to be no reaction when the verdict was read.
Following the reading of the verdict, a jury poll was conducted. Each juror was asked if they approved of the verdict, to which all answered yes.
"I cannot express in words your gratitude from the court," Masson said to the jurors. "Elk County and the system of justice owes that gratitude to you. You have fulfilled the highest service of duty in the Commonwealth."
Masson then dismissed the jury, stating they are now free to discuss the case among themselves or others if they so choose. He added that he wished to informally meet with them for a brief time inside the jury room before they departed for their homes. The jury members were brought in from Butler County due to pre-trial publicity.
Jury selection was held in Butler in September.
Donachy's trial began on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011 and was originally estimated to last 10 days.
Elk County District Attorney Bradley Kraus prosecuted the case for the Commonwealth, which was responsible for showing the burden of proof.