In the early morning hours of February 14, 1993, police were summoned to the Buffalo, New York home of Lynn DeJac and found the woman’s 13-year-old daughter, Crystallyn Girard, dead in her bed.
DeJac, 30, told police that she had spent the night at a wedding reception with a boyfriend, Dennis Donohue, they had returned home and quarreled and both left. DeJac said she went to a tavern where she spent several hours drinking and using cocaine. She found the girl dead in bed when she got home.
An autopsy performed by the Erie County Medical Examiner’s office determined the girl was strangled. A small amount of cocaine was detected in the body, but the narcotic was said to have played no role in her death.
Donohue became a suspect after DeJac said that she believed he had come back to the apartment after their quarrel while she was still gone. He was arrested several days later, but after passing a polygraph examination, he was released. He later was granted full immunity in return for his testimony against DeJac.
In May, 1993, Wayne Hudson, a childhood friend of DeJac told police she had confessed to killing her daughter. At the time, Hudson was facing forgery charges and a possible life sentence in prison as a repeat offender.
DeJac was arrested on December 10, 1993 and charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
DeJac went on trial in Erie County court in April 1994 and presented no witnesses. Hudson testified that she confessed to him. Donohue testified to their quarrel and night of drinking and drugs.
On April 20, 1994, DeJac was convicted of second-degree murder and on June 7, 1994, she was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In 2007, DNA tests revealed the presence of a man’s DNA in skin cells found in a smear of blood on a wall in Crystallyn’s bedroom, on bedding and in the vaginal cavity of the girl, who was menstruating at the time. Donohue could not be ruled out as the source of the DNA. A petition for a new trial was filed.
On November 28, 2007, Erie County Senior Judge Michael L. D’Amico vacated the conviction and DeJac was released pending a new trial.
On February 13, 2008, prosecutors disclosed that new autopsy findings showed that Crystallyn died of a cocaine overdose, not strangulation.
The charges against DeJac were dismissed on February 28, 2008.
In May 2008, Donohue was convicted of the strangulation murder of Joan Giambra in September 1993. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In November 2012, DeJac, who later changed her name to Lynn Peters, settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state for $2.7 million.
DeJac was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and died in June 2014.
– Maurice Possley