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Gary McGurk (left) is awaiting trial for murder

Irishman in bloody New York murder set for trial

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Gary McGurk (left) is awaiting trial for murder

This week last year Irishman Gary McGurk was charged with the gruesome murder of his former girlfriend, Michelle Lee, 24.

McGurk, originally from County Tyrone, moved to New York with his parents when he was a child, pleaded not guilty.

McGurk allegedly strangled and stabbed his on again off again girlfriend to death in her Sunnyside, Queens apartment on April 26, 2009.

He was picked up by police and charged on May 21.

Since his arrest he has been held on Rikers Island without bail.

His case has not yet gone to trial. His next hearing date is Thursday, May 20.

Lee's murder was particularly cruel. It is believed she was burned on her stomach with an iron and tied to her bed after she was stabbed and strangled to make it look like sex crime.

McGurk faces six charges, one count of second-degree murder, three counts of tampering with physical evidence and two counts of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

"He told police he wasn't guilty, he told me he's not guilty, and I'm telling you he is not guilty," McGurk's lawyer Ron Rubinstein told IrishCentral.com last year.

Lee, who worked for the NYPD's crime lab, was found dead in her bedroom in the Irish neighborhood of Sunnyside in Queens.

McGurk allegedly stabbed Lee in the throat, then scalded her chest with a steam iron after she was dead.

Cops also say he swindled her out of a great sum of money, perhaps in the thousands of dollars.

Her body had been badly beaten, and was bloodied by stab marks and bound.

The 24-year-old Lee worked for the city Police Department in what relatives said was her "dream job." She was a forensic investigator — like the kind portrayed on the popular "CSI" television show — and worked in police forensic labs.

Police sources told IrishCentral.com that Lee kept a diary that detailed her apparently secret romance with McGurk.

One entry noted that the student soccer star had cancer, which was untrue. She reportedly gave him money for cancer treatment, the diary revealed.

The precise motive for the alleged murder was unclear.

Lee's salary was not large, and the financial strain may have caused her to cut back on the funding of his "treatment."

Police sources said that once they were sure McGurk was their leading suspect, they acted quickly to prevent him from fleeing to his home in Ireland.

In his statement to police, McGurk said he met Lee at the John Jay gym in 2004, and they dated briefly before becoming "friends with benefits," he said.

"It got to the point that when she wasn't giving me the money back, I told her, 'You know I do have cancer and I need my money back,'" McGurk said in his statement.

McGurk said he last saw Lee around 2 a.m. on April 26, when she met him outside her apartment to explain she could not pay him back and they parted amicably, according to his statement.

"I got to her apartment door and she said she had company and said good night and walked off," he said.

McGurk maintained his innocence. "If I did it, I would deserve to be put away," he said.

After the murder Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said of Lee, "She was a very talented young woman. She was murdered in a very brutal way."

McGurk was suspected because he had "inconsistencies in his story," Kelly said, noting there was also forensic evidence implicating him.

McGurk's academic specialty at John Jay focused on psychology and legal issues. Forensic psychologists often evaluate individuals to determine whether they are competent to stand trial, and their potential for future dangerous behavior.

Chillingly, the department website lists two academic events that McGurk could have attended during the course of his studies: "Understanding and Preventing the Murder of Women in Intimate Relationships" and "The Interrogation and Torture Controversy."

McGurk's page on MySpace.com shows the accused killer said his mood was "blissful" the last time he logged into the social network which occurred after the girl was murdered.

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