Chesco Man Sentenced To Life Term For Wife's Strangulation In 1991

Posted: August 06, 1994

A Chester County man who insisted he was innocent was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for the 1991 strangulation of his wife.

"I did not kill my wife. I loved her with all my heart," Andrew J. Byrne, 32, told Chester County Common Pleas Judge Leonard Sugerman shortly before Sugerman sentenced him to life without parole.

Byrne was convicted in March 1992 of strangling his wife, Leona Caramanica, 30, in their East Goshen Township home on July 10, 1991. The couple had a young daughter, Ari, and an infant son, Travis.

Byrne's lawyer, John Duffy, said he would pursue an appeal.

"This trial has not convinced me," the lawyer told Sugerman. "I do not believe that this man did kill his wife."

Since the life sentence was mandatory in the case, the prosecution did not make a statement prior to the sentencing.

Caramanica's sister, Roma Plunkett, spoke in court on behalf of her family.

"We want everyone to know that we will never forget Lea and how much we love her," Plunkett said, chocking back tears.

"If you could just see the pain in our mother's eyes and in our eyes, and particularly in her little girl's eyes, Ari," Plunkett said to Sugerman.

According to testimony, a motive for the murder was a $100,000 life insurance policy that Byrne had taken out on his wife three days before the murder.

The insurance salesman who sold the couple the policy said that Byrne, who was unemployed at the time, had asked: "If somebody came in and murdered me, would I be covered?"

Byrne told police that he had come home on the afternoon of July 10, 1991, and found his wife slumped in a folding chair with a bookcase tilted on top of her.

Byrne later changed his story when police pointed out that there were substantial inconsistencies between his version and the physical evidence.

Caramanica, a graduate of Villanova Law School, worked as a part-time legal researcher.

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