WOBURN -- For 20 years, Evelyn Tobin clung to hope that authorities would discover who brutally killed her daughter.
With a lack of evidence, police were stalled in the case. But then came a confession last December, and Tuesday Tobin was finally able to confront the man who stabbed her 31-year-old daughter to death in 1992.
“The cowardly psychopath who will be sentenced here today entered her home in the dead of night while she was sleeping and ended her life for no reason other than the thrill of it,” Tobin said Tuesday in Middlesex Superior Court.
Craig Conkey, 45, pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder in the killing of Kathleen Dempsey. He was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole.
The homicide occurred when Conkey, scared off by police 20 years ago from a home he intended to burglarize, instead picked out a modest residence tucked among the woods in Lexington.
Startled by Dempsey, the occupant, Conkey stabbed her 17 times, concentrating on her kidneys because he knew they were vital organs, according to authorities.
Prosecutors say that Conkey, during his taped confession, told authorities that he feared Armageddon was imminent and that he wanted to clear his conscience of Dempsey’s murder because he did not want to go to hell.
In her statement, Tobin said, “I have news for him: Kathy is in Heaven, and there’s no way he’s going to join her there.”
Conkey had turned to break-ins to get money to eat, after he was suspended from his job making hamburgers at a McDonald’s restaurant in Bedford in August 1992.
According to Conkey’s lawyer, Bernard Grossberg, he had apparently wanted to admit committing the slaying years earlier.
Conkey is already serving life in prison with the possibility of parole stemming from a second-
degree murder conviction in the slaying of another Lexington woman he killed in 1994. His plea Tuesday comes at a time when he is eligible for parole in that case, having already served 15 years.
But even Conkey acknowledged Tuesday that he will probably never be paroled, even though his new conviction also comes with that possibility.
“Realistically, I’ll never get parole on two life bids,” he said in a presentencing session with Judge Kathe Tuttman.
Conkey showed no emotion as Dempsey’s mother delivered the heart-wrenching victim impact statement Tuesday.
Conkey, dressed in a red prison jump-suit, sat stoically as he watched Tobin speak. Approximately 20 relatives and friends of Dempsey sat in the courtroom, some wiping tears from their cheeks as she spoke.
The heinous nature of Dempsey’s death rocked the tight-knit Lexington community, and the unsolved status of the case for so many years took a heavy emotional toll on her family and friends.
Michael Fabbri, assistant district attorney, said the victim’s family was diligent over the years in making sure a focus was kept on Dempsey’s case.
“I am humbled by the fortitude and persistence the Dempsey family has had over all these years,” Fabbri said during a press conference with the family after the sentencing.
Conkey’s plea agreement stipulates that the new conviction be served concurrently with his first conviction, beginning Tuesday.
“I cannot envision the pain you have endured, and I hope today’s proceedings bring you some solace,” Grossberg said, facing the victim’s family moments before his client was led out of the courtroom.
Conkey told Tuttman he graduated from high school in New Hampshire, was in the Army for almost three years, then took on factory jobs and worked at McDonald’s.
Dempsey was an art school graduate and a freelance designer who was planning to attend graduate school and earn a master’s degree in education at Lesley College so she could teach young children.
Conkey was indicted on Dec. 21, 2011, in Dempsey’s unsolved murder as a result of statements he made implicating himself in the crime, along with scientific advances in forensics that allowed investigators to collect new information from evidence found at the scene, the Middlesex district attorney’s office has said.
In the other murder, Conkey was arrested in Mary Lou Sale’s killing after she was found in her Massachusetts Avenue apartment Dec. 6, 1994. She had been beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted. Conkey was twice convicted of first-
degree murder and had both convictions overturned by the Supreme Judicial Court.