CHICAGO (STMW) — “Tell her it was another man. Tell her you were raped.”

Those were the “cold, calculating words” of Gary Albert, “desperate to avoid responsibility for his 15-year-old girlfriend who was ready to tell her mother she was pregnant,” Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Lanahan told jurors Tuesday at the start of the murder trial for Albert, accused of fatally stabbing Dawn Niles in 1981.

Albert, 49, has maintained his innocence in the death of Niles, his girlfriend and classmate at Hinsdale South High School. Niles, of LaGrange Park, was found in a Cook County Forest Preserve in Palos Township on March 22, 1981. She’d been stabbed 34 times in the chest and back, and was about three months pregnant.

The case lay cold until 2006, when investigators reopened it at the urging of Niles’ sister. Albert, who attended the program for deaf students at Hinsdale South with Niles, was charged after DNA indicated he had sex with her shortly before she died.

His attorneys argued that other leads were not followed, other possible suspects not questioned.

“They made a decision the day after her body was found that the boyfriend must have done this,” Todd Pugh told jurors. “They got it wrong in this case in 1981 and (Cook County Sheriff’s Det. Larry) Rafferty picked this up as a cold case in 2006, and he got it wrong, too.”

Mary Augustyn, Niles’ confidante and fellow deaf student at Hinsdale South, remembered how upset the teen was on March 17, 1981, the last day she was seen alive. The girls were supposed to be running laps in P.E. class when Niles told her friend she was pregnant, Augustyn said.

Niles told her friend that Albert, now from Sugar Grove, didn’t want anything to do with the pregnancy and that he told her to tell her mother she was dating another boy, or that she had been raped, Augustyn said through a sign-language interpreter.

“Dawn was very upset with that,” she said.

Augustyn, an educator at a deaf school in Florida, testified not from the usual witness stand but from a chair placed in front of the judge to accommodate the interpreters.

The extra screens and live screen feed of the court reporter’s transcript that were set up to aid deaf spectators proved a novelty for Bridgeview courthouse employees, who stopped regularly outside Judge Joan M. O’Brien’s courtroom door to read the testimony through the glass doors.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)