A 13-year-old girl had been found strangled in her bed.
It was the day before Valentine’s Day 1993. And Lynn DeJac was off to a wedding with her ex, Dennis Donohue.
A single mum, her neighbours in Buffalo, New York, said he’d often leave her daughter, Crystallynn, 13, and her 9-year-old son home while she partied. Tonight was no different. By 11pm, a drunk Lynn announced she was leaving.
Dennis followed. They argued in front of Crystallynn.
At 11.44pm, Lynn called police. When officers arrived, Lynn didn’t answer. Instead, she went to a local bar with old friend Michael Nichter.
Dennis followed them. They argued. When Michael drove Lynn back to his house…Dennis followed.
Lynn begged Dennis to leave. He eventually did, and Michael and Lynn went to bed.
He dropped her back home at noon on Valentine’s Day. Two hours later, Lynn rang the police again.
This time, the officer found Crystallynn’s bedroom walls splashed with blood. Nearby, there was a bloodstained towel, and a broken rolling pin.
The 13-year-old was lying face-up in bed, naked apart from her red socks. There was bruising to her head, neck and body, and a cut to her chest. There was froth around her mouth, and burst blood vessels in her eyes. She was dead, had been strangled.
Police grilled Lynn and Dennis. Dennis could provide no alibi from after 4am, when he’d attacked Michael. And his shirt had a minute dot of blood on the sleeve – not enough to test for DNA. Furthermore, when he took a lie-detector test, he passed.
When a child’s body washed ashore, it sparked a nationwide mystery…
But surely she was a grieving widow, trying to do the best for her kids?
So suspicion fell on Lynn. Especially when Michael explained that they’d returned to check on the kids just before 5am on Valentine’s Day. Lynn had gone into Crystallynn’s room. Said the girl was fine.
Had Lynn pretended she was talking to Crystallynn to give herself an alibi? And why had it taken two hours to report her murder?
Lynn insisted she was innocent.
Five months later, family friend Wayne Hudson told police that Lynn had confessed to him.
In April 1994, Lynn DeJac, 30, stood in the dock, charged with the second-degree murder of her daughter. She wept, insisting she’d never have hurt her.
It emerged that Hudson had only told police about Lynn after he’d been arrested for forging cheques. With two previous convictions, he’d faced life in jail. He’d got off with a conditional discharge instead.
Lynn’s attorney insisted it was Donohue who’d killed the girl. So what was the truth?
Lynn DeJac was initially found guilty.
In 2007, Dennis Donohue was found guilty of another local killing.
During the investigation, DNA evidence placed Donohue in Crystallynn’s room at the time of her death.
However, he couldn’t be prosecuted for Crystallynn’s murder – as he’d been granted immunity for testifying against Lynn.
In 2008, Lynn DeJac, 44, was exonerated.
In a final twist, authorities said Crystallynn had actually overdosed on a ‘trace amount’ of cocaine. And experts suggested the drug may have entered her system at Donohue’s hands.
It seemed the truth about Crystallynn’s killer may never be clear…
By Rachel Tompkins