2 Charged in Harlem Nun's Death

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010  |  Updated 9:46 PM EDT
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2 Charged in Harlem Nun's Death

Siede Preis

State and local police are investigating the discovery of human remains of a Newtown woman who went missing in 1984.

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Two men were charged Wednesday with murdering a nun mowed down in the wake of an armed robbery spree, although one of the suspects surrendered to police before she was hit.

William Robbins and Dyson Williams were being held without bail after pleading not guilty to murder, robbery and other charges.

Prosecutors said both men participated in a string of stickups that ultimately led to Sister Mary Celine Graham's June 22 death. Under state law, participants in a robbery can be charged with murder if their crime or flight kills someone else.

Robbins, 18, who initially was driving, got out of the car and was arrested when police pulled it over in Harlem, according to authorities and his lawyer. Authorities said the 20-year-old Williams then got behind the wheel and sped off, slamming into a minivan a few blocks away as Graham walked on the street.

Graham, 83, was killed in the collison. Four other people were hurt.

Williams denies he was driving, said his lawyer, Daniel J. Gotlin. Robbins' lawyer, Mark Jay Heller, said the teen shouldn't be considered responsible for a killing that happened when he was in police custody.

"The minute my client complies with the police, gets out of the vehicle ... he is obviously not in a co-conspiracy with the other individual, who starts a brand-new crime," Heller said.

Graham had been a member of the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary order for more than 60 years. She had worked with preschoolers in Harlem and elsewhere.

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