NY child killer gets 20-to-life for '88 slaying

October 28, 2011 - 2:00 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A former security guard already imprisoned for strangling a young girl in upstate New York in 1994 drew an extra sentence of 20 years to life on Friday for beating to death an elderly woman in 1988.

For years, Mark Christie carried horrendous secrets he was unable to keep contained and "now stands convicted of not one but two of the most notorious crimes (in Rochester) in the last quarter-century," prosecutor Doug Randall said.

Christie, 39, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month for killing Viola Manville on Nov. 29, 1988. Shot with a pellet gun and bludgeoned with a railroad tie, the 74-year-old grandmother was found dead on an abandoned railroad track near her home in Hilton, a Rochester suburb.

The blame was pinned on truck driver Frank Sterling in 1991. But DNA testing — and Christie's eventual confession last year — led to Sterling being exonerated and freed after he'd spent 19 years behind bars.

Officials with the Innocence Project, which uses DNA evidence to clear people wrongfully convicted of crimes, said Christie revealed details only the killer would know.

Christie showed no emotion at sentencing and shook his head when asked if he wanted to speak. The consecutive sentence — on top of the 25 years to life he's been serving for killing 4-year-old Kali Ann Poulton — means he won't be eligible for parole for 30 years.

"He is a monster," Manville's granddaughter, Susan Sulimowicz, told the judge. "It is beyond obvious that what he did to my beloved grandma doesn't ever remotely bother him."

Christie, a teenager at the time, was questioned soon after the Manville slaying but denied involvement and was discounted as a suspect. In 1994, he abducted Kali as she rode a tricycle outside her home and hid her body for two years in a water tank where he worked. In 1996, he was arrested after blurting out the truth to his new wife.

Kali would be alive if police had been able to prove he killed Manville, said her mother, Judy Tosh, 49, dabbing her tears with a tissue.

"Of course it has crossed my mind. What if?" Tosh said after the sentencing. "But unfortunately it is what it is. We can't go backward."

Christie took responsibility for killing Manville rather than put her family through the ordeal of a trial, defense lawyer James Nobles said. But the prosecutor said Christie never showed remorse in prison interviews and "almost laughed at what happened to Mr. Sterling."

Sterling confessed to Manville's killing during an all-night interrogation in July 1991 but later claimed he'd slipped into a hypnotic state and parroted details police gave him about the crime.

He unsuccessfully sought a new trial in 1997 after four former friends of Christie testified the teen bragged about clubbing Manville with a BB gun on his walk to school.

After years of protesting his innocence, Sterling said he felt anger and relief when told he was being freed.

"Yeah, I'm mad," he said. "I'm glad he (Christie) finally did the right thing. Wish it was a little sooner."

Sterling is seeking unspecified damages for wrongful conviction, but it could be years before he gets any payout. In July, he returned to court on seven misdemeanor charges of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy. If convicted, he could get up to a year in jail.