2 men charged in violinist's murder

MAYVILLE, NY-- Two men have been charged in connection with the death of a violinist.

Mary E. Whitaker, 61, was found dead from a gunshot wound in a home on Titus Road in the Town of Westfield Wednesday.

Authorities arrested 43-year old Jonathan Conklin and 30-year-old Charles Sanford, who they believe are responsible for the death of Mary Whitaker after police say they attempted to rob her.

The arrests were announced Friday by the Chautauqua County Sheriff and the District Attorney.

Sheriff Joseph Gerace said,"During the course of the robbery Mrs. Whitaker was murdered and she died of a gunshot wounds to the chest, but she also had another gunshot wound to her leg."

Whitaker's body was found Wednesday in the garage of her Westfield home. Authorities believe she was killed earlier that morning.

Whitaker was a 35-year member of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, most recently as a second violinist. She lived part of the year in New York City.

Friends contacted police when they were unable to reach Whitaker.

Sheriff Gerace said, "We have reason to believe that she was being forced to give them information and we don't know if she ever did, but they subsequently stole her vehicle which was recovered Thursday night."

The vehicle was found in Erie, Pennsylvania. Police were able to connect Conklin to the case and also located Sanford.

Gerace said, "With the help of the FBI we were able to see that her credit card was compromised."

Authorities went to one of the establishments where the credit card was attempted and they identified Conklin in the videotape of the store.

Sheriff Gerace said they were able to arrest the men with the help of the FBI.

Both Conklin and Sanford face other charges including: carjacking and use of a firearm. They could face up to life in prison if convicted.


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