Leah Caramanica was strangled to death by her husband Andrew Byrne on July 10, 1991 at the New Kent Apartments in East Goshen. At the time, Leah was a 30 year old attorney with 2 children, a daughter age 2 and a son 4 months old. The evidence against Byrne was circumstantial and Leah’s family was terrified that if he got acquitted he would get custody of the children. Over the next 5 years, Byrne was convicted twice of first degree murder, each conviction reversed because of changes in the law. Ultimately, Byrne entered a plea to Murder in the third degree, to the maximum sentence at that time 10 to 20 years (with no credit for the 7 years he had already spent in jail). The average murder sentence in Pennsylvania then was 7 to 15 years. (Eventually, prosecutors successfully lobbied the state legislature to increase the penalty to 20-40 years). Since Byrne gave up the right to the time he spent in jail, he essentially was sentenced to 17 to 27 years. He also agreed to sign over custody of his children to Maryanne Caramanica, their grandmother. The case did not end there though. Byrne then sued claiming his plea was illegal and he wanted credit for the time he served in jail. He lost but that lawsuit took another 3 years. Byrne is still in jail in his 20th year and his parole was denied last year. In an effort to show he has changed, he wrote me a letter, admitting for the first time that he had killed his wife stating you were right about me all along.
But he is not what is important. I tell my children to look at the donut not the hole; look at what you have, not what you don’t have. After Leah's death, her mom Maryanne, who had raised six children after her husband, had died young, had to, in her late 50s, raise two infants. Through these past 20 years, the Caramanicas have treated me as part of their family. They moved several states away and my family would visit and watch the remarkable job Maryanne did in raising these two kids. I went to each of their high school graduations. In 2010, I sat next to Maryanne in Massachusetts, holding her hand when the person handing out diplomas said, "Please take a moment to reflect on who could not be here today". Maryanne’s granddaughter Ari graduated with an academic scholarship from Harvard University. Her mother would have been so proud. And it is due to one grandmother, who is my hero.