"I myself am still coming to terms with what I have done and I make no excuses. I have taken away the life of a very special young woman. I don't ask forgiveness. I don't think I deserve it," he said.
The judge, who could only dish out 37 years according to the plea deal, told McGurk, "You deserve a life sentence for what you did."
McGurk, who could be eligible for parole in his 50s, will be deported back to Ireland if he becomes eligible.
Lee, who worked for the NYPD's crime lab, was found dead in her bedroom in the Irish neighborhood of Sunnyside.
McGurk admitted beating Lee in the head with a hammer, stabbing her in the neck with a knife, burning her body with an iron and making the scene look like a sex crime.
McGurk, who initially pleaded not guilty after his arrest and only changed his plea in May, posed Lee’s naked body on the bed in an effort to throw investigators off his trail. He tied her hands to the bedpost with her cell phone charger cord.
He wrapped her head in plastic wrap and then beat her four times in the head with a hammer.
After the murder was committed McGurk left the apartment with the hammer, plastic wrap and her Blackberry. He sent a message from her phone to his trying to make it look like he was innocent.
McGurk, a skilled soccer player with the college, had a sexual relationship with Lee since he met her at the gym of the CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the plea deal spared Lee’s family from hearing about the gruesome crime during a trial.
"I think that Michelle would have been especially proud of her colleagues at the NYPD's Queens crime lab who worked tirelessly to make certain that her killer was apprehended and that justice would be served," said Brown.
Police also say McGurk swindled Lee out of a great sum of money, perhaps in the thousands of dollars, telling her he had cancer and needed money for treatment or he would die. Police say he may have become enraged when she put a stop to the “loans.”
Police sources told the Irish Voice last year that Lee kept a diary that detailed her apparently secret romance with McGurk.
She reportedly gave him money for cancer treatment, the diary revealed. Lee's salary was not large, and the financial strain may have caused her to cut back on the funding of his "treatment."