Section: CAPITAL REGION Page: B5 Date: Thursday, March 16, 2000
INMATE SENTENCED AGAIN FOR 1991 MURDERBOB GARDINIER Staff writer
Schenectady A former apartment manager who murdered a tenant was again sentenced Wednesday, this time to 15 years-to-life in prison, nine years after the crime. Frank DiDonato, 36, who pleaded guilty in 1992 in a case that has dragged on through five appeals, read a letter of apology to the family of 48-year-old Collene Johengen.
But it is unlikely that her family will ever read it. ``We looked and we could not locate any of her family members,'' Assistant District Attorney Alfred D. Chapleau said after the sentencing on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree burglary. DiDonato has been serving a sentence of 20 years to life in prison and may now be eligible for parole within seven years. On Jan. 4, 1991, DiDonato called police and said he found Johengen dead in the lobby of her 204 Lafayette St. apartment building. He later told an investigator he hit Johengen in the face, hid her pocketbook and tried to make it look like she had been robbed in her apartment. He was then charged with murder. In 1992, DiDonato pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree burglary. But last July, a midlevel appeals court ordered County Court to re-examine the plea to determine if DiDonato understood what he had agreed to. In November, Randall Kehoe, DiDonato's attorney, successfully argued that DiDonato thought he would eventually be eligible for a psychiatric defense and a trial. In 1992, visiting Hamilton County Judge S. Peter Feldstein allowed DiDonato to plead guilty. The judge said DiDonato could later back out of that plea and did not require him to submit a waiver of appeal. In January, Schenectady County Judge Michael C. Eidens allowed him to take back his 1992 plea and re-enter a plea for a lesser sentence.