updated 9/13/2006 3:27:27 PM ET 2006-09-13T19:27:27

A judge convicted a 73-year-old woman of first-degree murder Wednesday for killing her older neighbor with 37 hammer blows to the head and sentenced her to life in prison without parole.

Kathy MacClellan declined to speak on her own behalf before receiving her sentence and rocked in her chair as the judge imposed it.

She was found guilty of attacking 84-year-old Marguerite “Tuddy” Eyer with the claw end of a hammer on Feb. 7, 2005, in a mobile home community north of Bethlehem, which is about 45 miles north of Philadelphia.

Eyer identified MacClellan as her killer before she died in the emergency room, and police testified that MacClellan’s face, hair and clothing had been covered in Eyer’s blood. Prosecutors did not discuss a motive.

“Your conduct cannot be discounted because of your age,” Judge Emil Giordano told MacClellan.

MacClellan had been scheduled to plead guilty Monday to third-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 17 to 39 years in prison. But the judge ordered a nonjury trial after she refused to agree to the facts of the case as laid out by Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.

MacClellan had earlier waived her right to a jury trial when prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.

MacClellan told police she went to Eyer’s house with cookies and a photo album and found her bleeding on the floor, authorities said. She said she got on top of Eyer and moved her arm around because she thought that would comfort her, and got Eyer’s blood on her, according to testimony.

The defense did not put on a case. Defense attorneys Anthony Martino and Mark Minotti declined to comment after the sentencing.

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