Schenectady County

Niskayuna man pleas guilty to Christmas Eve murder of wife

A Niskayuna man admitted in court Thursday to stabbing his wife to death in Lake Luzerne on Christma

A Niskayuna man admitted in court Thursday to stabbing his wife to death in Lake Luzerne on Christmas Eve, officials said.

Clifford R. Burns, 46, of Troy-Schenectady Road, pleaded guilty in Warren County Court to one count of second-degree murder.

Burns admitted to stabbing his estranged wife Patricia Burns to death Dec. 24 at her home.

In exchange for his plea, Burns is to get 23 years to life in state prison at his May 13 sentencing.

Patricia Burns, who was 42, was formerly of Niskayuna. She also worked for Community Hospice in Saratoga County at the time of her death.

Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said Thursday that central to the plea deal was that it would spare Patricia Burns’ two teenage daughters, age 14 and 15 from having to testify against their father.

Patricia Burns also had two older children from a previous relationship.

The 14-year-old was present at the time of the killing and called 911. The 15-year-old was not home, but would have testified about other aspects of the case.

Hogan noted that the maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 25 years to life in state prison.

“In this particular case, forcing the children to relive the horrors of that night hardly seemed worth the two years,” Hogan said.

“We were able to secure a top-count conviction and 23 years to life,” Hogan added. “From our perspective that was a good disposition.”

Injured in the attack was Patricia Burns’ oldest daughter, 22-year-old Megan Jenkins. Jenkins suffered stab wounds to her arms as she tried to come to her mother’s aid.

Hogan said the family was consulted and they approved of the deal.

Clifford Burns was represented in court by attorney Wayne Smith. Smith said later his client also wanted to prevent the children from having to testify at trial.

Clifford Burns had a long history of violence and threats against others, including a 2003 beating attack on Patricia Burns at their former residence in Niskayuna. The 2003 case resulted in a misdemeanor contempt conviction.

After her death in December, Patricia Burns was remembered by co-workers as an outstanding caregiver, someone who treated her hospice patients with the utmost dignity and compassion.

She was also remembered as a woman who had a strong sense of love for her children.

Patricia Burns worked with Community Hospice locally for eight years, first at The Inn at St. Peter’s and then at the hospice’s Saratoga County office starting in early 2011.

She also had a fifth child, Christalin, who died suddenly in December 2010.

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