NORTH HAVERHILL, N.H. (AP) -- A man convicted of killing two women in Massachusetts pleaded guilty Friday to stabbing a 30-year-old New Hampshire woman to death in 1991.
Craig Conkey pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Grafton County Superior Court and was sentenced to life without the chance of parole.
Conkey said he killed Theresa "Tess" Reed, 30, in her apartment near the Plymouth State College campus just a week after the fall semester started. Reed was an associate registrar at the college.
Her parents were in the courtroom Friday.
When Judge Peter Bornstein asked at the outset of the hearing if Conkey intended to plead guilty, Conkey replied in a high-pitched voice: "Why don’t we just get it over with and plead to first-degree murder?"
Reed’s father, Joseph Reed, told the judge it was ironic that the brutal admission came on Valentine’s Day, one of his daughter’s favorite holidays.
"If Theresa were here, I suspect she would want to wish everyone a happy Valentine’s Day," he father said. "It is a happy day to know that finally closure is coming to this case, although I don’t know what closure is."
Conkey, 47, told investigators he set out to burglarize Reed’s house and panicked when she saw him and screamed. He told investigators in 2012 he stabbed her several times with a knife that had a 6-inch blade, buried the knife near Reed’s house, slept in the woods that night and then walked to his parents’ house in nearby Dorchester, N.H., where he grew up.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Jeffery Strelzin said a handyman working on the property where Reed lived found a knife matching the description Conkey gave when he pulled up a fence post in 1994.
Strelzin told the judge Conkey knew details about the crime that only the killer would know, including that Reed’s body was between her bed and wall, where she rolled as he was stabbing her.
His confession was given added credibility, Strelzin said, when he told investigators about an unsolved case in Manchester. Conkey told them he went into a florist’s shop and attempted to strangle a woman behind the counter and fled when he was startled by a customer.
After the stabbing, local merchants reported an increased sale in ammunition, door locks, Mace and newspapers. That her killer was still loose was unnerving.
Conkey is already serving two life sentences in Massachusetts after being convicted of killing two women in Lexington, Mass.: 31-year-old Kathleen Dempsey in 1992 and 49-year-old Mary Lou Sale in 1994.
Conkey’s plea and sentencing marks the first for the state’s 5-year-old cold case squad.
Lexington detectives who charged Conkey with Sale’s rape and murder came talked to Plymouth police about the similarities between the Reed and Sale cases. Both women were found next to their beds in apartments where they lived alone. Sale, however, had been strangled. New Hampshire investigators have not said whether Reed was sexually assaulted.
Conkey’s lawyer had told The Associated Press that Conkey voluntarily reached out to investigators to talk about the Reed killing but cold case detectives say that wasn’t the case. They say they talked to Conkey in 2012 shortly after he pleaded guilty to killing Dempsey.