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Mass. man admits killing N.H. college worker in 1991

NORTH HAVERHILL, N.H. — 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.

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Conkey said that 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: ‘‘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,’’ her 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 that 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 Dorchester, N.H.

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 that Conkey knew details about the crime only the killer would know, including that Reed’s body was between her bed and wall. 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 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.

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