Gary McGurk, the County Tyrone man living in the U.S. since he was 10 and now accused of murdering his NYPD criminologist girlfriend in April, told detectives he once considered joining the priesthood.
McGurk, 23, told police the night after Michele Lee’s body was found tied to her bed in her Sunnyside apartment on Monday, April 27, that he “considered the priesthood from freshman to sophomore year.”
A statement from McGurk to police, released in Queens Supreme Court on Thursday, June 4, said he finds “crime scene photos and cadavers disturbing.”
McGurk, when questioned, was in his final year of a forensic psychology course at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, yet he told police that his stomach turns when he sees disturbing pictures.
“It’s too much to handle. I panic for needles,” he said.
McGurk, who moved to Sunnyside with his mother, Caroline, his father, Aiden, and his sister, Niamh, from County Tyrone in 1985, told police that although he didn’t have a job while he was at John Jay, he worked once in a while as a bartender or in construction with a family friend.
McGurk met Lee, 24, in 2004 on the John Jay campus.
“I saw her on the treadmill sometime in the fall of 2004,” he said in a statement to police.
“I asked her out. Dating did not work for us. Didn’t click as a couple. It was more physical than anything else. It turned into a friends with benefits from then on,” McGurk explains.
The Irishman explained in explicit detail the type of physical relationship they had, which included bondage and biting.
McGurk, a soccer star at his college, once borrowed money from Lee because he was out of work. He told police he paid her back, “plus I gave her more money.”
He said towards the end of her life Lee owed him money. McGurk later admitted to police that he told Lee he had cancer and needed the money she owed him for his treatment.
McGurk, whose father Aiden once had links with the IRA in Northern Ireland, said very few people knew about their relationship. The couple used to meet at McDonalds on 39th Street close to Lee’s new apartment in Sunnyside.
Lee, who shared an apartment with another girl, was, according to McGurk, annoyed that her roommate was on a dating Web site.
“It annoyed Michelle. You see the Craigslist killer and you don’t want to meet people on the Internet,” he said.
McGurk said the last time he was at Lee’s apartment was Wednesday, April 22 at 2 a.m.
“She gave me more of my money back. She gave me a grand. When she died she owed me $500,” he said.
McGurk said the weekend that Lee was murdered he spent a lot of time with his girlfriend, Catherine Wells, but left her in the city about 8:45 p.m. on Saturday, April 25.
McGurk said he got home about 10 p.m., did some homework, watched soccer on ESPN, spoke to his girlfriend twice on the phone and was talking to Lee online. McGurk then left his house at 2 a.m.
“I went to Starbucks in Sunnyside. It was closed. I walked to 32nd Street and Queens Boulevard. And back to 58th Street and to Maurice Park and then along the LIE all the way to Juniper Park,” said McGurk, retracing his steps of that Saturday night.
He said police officers asked him to leave the park and he got home about 4:45 a.m.
When police asked McGurk if he went to Lee’s apartment the same night he replied, “I walked to her block and on it but I did not go in to her apartment.”
McGurk later added that he met Michelle after 2 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, “around the corner from CVS” because she was supposed to give him the remaining $500 she owed him. Lee, according to McGurk, was unable to come up with the money because she had rent and bills to pay.
McGurk said he understood. “I got to her apartment door and she said she had company and said goodnight and walked off,” he said.
Lee then apparently called McGurk on his cell at 3:56 a.m.
McGurk, who said he was inside Lee’s apartment approximately 10 times since she moved in March, said on Sunday he helped “set up radio for my father’s Gaelic soccer” and then spent the rest of he evening with his father at his uncle’s bar.
McGurk told police in April, “If I were to have done this to Michelle I would not only embarrass myself but I would also embarrass my family.
“Whatever happened to Michelle, whether it was an accident or on purpose does not matter. There is no explanation. If I did it I would deserve to be put away.”
McGurk was arrested and charged with Lee’s murder on Thursday, May 21. He was charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of tampering with physical evidence and two counts of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
When arrested in May, McGurk, frustrated, told Detective Edward Wilkowski and Detective Edwyn Stuart that police had made it “impossible for me to do what I need to do with her family. To pay my respects ... I’ll always be stigmatized as the guilty one.”
He said it was his mother who hired a lawyer, not him. “You are Irish, you know, if you have trouble, the family is there for you. I can’t help what my mother does,” he said.
McGurk told police this whole ordeal has been very difficult on him.
“I can’t process this. I hold it all together. I have been in religion and out of religion. I studied for the priesthood. I have a conscious. If I had something to get out my chest I would,” he added.
McGurk said the police were picking on only a few facts.
“I spoke to you freely and then you use truth I tell you against me. That's why people lie,” McGurk told police.
“You concentrate on three of four lines of what I said to you, instead of everything I said to you. You read it. You know what's there. You just don't care. You give me that psychobabble and try to be my friend. I didn't tell you everything all at once because I had to build trust with you.”
Police said Lee's nude body was found inside her bedroom on April 27. She had been stabbed in the throat and head, bound with a cell phone charger cord and seared on the chest with a steam iron.
McGurk, who is being held without bail, pleaded not guilty and will return to court on July 20. If found guilty he faces life in prison