Astoria man sentenced in fatal park shooting

Croation professor William Klinger was gunned down in Astoria Park in 2015 and this week, his friend Alexander Bonich was sentenced to 25 years to life in his murder.
By Bill Parry

An Astoria man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison Monday for the murder of his friend, who moved from Italy to Astoria only to be conned by the defendant and then shot and killed in Astoria Park in January 2015, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Alexander Bonich, 52, of 42nd Street, was found guilty of shooting 42-year-old William Klinger as they walked in Astoria Park near 19th Street on a Saturday afternoon. A jury needed just two hours to deliberate the case before finding Bonich guilty of second-degree murder, criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with evidence. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder, who presided at the trial, sentenced the defendant to 25 years to life in prison.

“The shooter and the victim were friends, but that did not stop the defendant from first scamming the man out of tens of thousands of dollars and then viciously shooting him in the back,” Brown said. “This was a horrible crime committed in broad daylight in one of Queens’ most popular parks. A jury found the defendant guilty and the court has now sentenced him to spend the rest of his days locked behind bars as punishment for this senseless killing.”

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 a 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 and got rid of the weapon by throwing it in the East River, 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 dead.

“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.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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