By Bill Parry
An Astoria man has been convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of a friend in 2015 and his jury needed just two hours to deliberate the case, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Alexander Bonich, 52, of 42nd Street, was found guilty of killing 42-year-old William Klinger as they walked in Astoria Park near 19th Street, on a Saturday afternoon. Bonich faces up to 25 years to life in prison.
According to testimony in the five-week-long jury trial, Bonich and Klinger first met years before in Croatia and maintained a friendship over the years.
The victim was an historian who told Bonich that he wanted to move to the United States. Bonich offered to help and told Klinger he had found a job for him at Hunter College and sold him an Astoria apartment for $85,000. But it was all a lie.
There was no job waiting for Klinger and the apartment he had bought was actually rented by the defendant’s elderly mother. On Jan. 31, 2015, the two men walked into Astoria Park and began to argue.
The victim walked away from Bonich, who ordered him to stop, and when Klinger ignored Bonich, the defendant shot him in the back of the head with an antique revolver.
The victim fell to the ground and Bonich shot him again, according to the trial testimony.
Klinger, an expert on the late Yugoslavian dictator Josip Tito and a resident of Italy, was found lying down by two parkgoers with a bullet wound in the head and one in the neck, according to the NYPD. He was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dean.
“The defendant in this case spun a web of lies — claiming that the victim had set out to kill him and that shooting the man in the back was self-defense,” Brown said. “The jury, however, weighed all the evidence and found the defendant guilty as charged after just two hours of deliberations. The victim of this violent shooting had trusted the defendant and reached out to him for help in starting a new life in New York City. Sadly, the defendant betrayed that trust and brutally shot and killed the man. The defendant will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars as punishment for this senseless killing.”
Bonich was found guilty of second-degree murder, criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with evidence. Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder, who presided at trial, set sentencing for June 14.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr