Two Men Face Charges Stemming from Homicide in Westfield, NY


Two men are in custody in the shooting death of 61-year-old Mary Whitaker of Westfield, New York.

Whitaker was a violinist with Chautauqua Institution’s Symphony Orchestra.

43-year-old Jonathan M. Conklin and 30-year-old Charles Sanford were arrested in Erie on Friday for their alleged involvement in Whitaker's death on August 20.

According to investigators, the men were attempting to rob Whitaker. Officials believe she was home at the time and was being forced to give information.

She suffered a fatal gunshot to the chest and a gunshot wound to the leg.

Conklin and Sanford then stole her car, which was later found in downtown Erie.

Investigators were led to the car when Whitaker’s credit card was used at an Erie store.

Erie Police then assisted the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul says law enforcement serves an oath to protect people from violence at home.

"When we speak in terms of protection and safety, certainly one's home and sanctity of that home is what this county stands for and was founded upon,” said Hochul.

Officials say that this sort of violence is a shock for a community that's normally quiet.

"We don't have a lot of homicides thank goodness and this is a shocker especially in this community and a woman who is a renowned violinist from Chautauqua that's a stunning crime,” said Sheriff Joe Gerace of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department.

And residents of the area share that feeling.

We live in quiet, very safe neighborhoods and community, and it's very tragic and upsetting… It’s very unusual that something like this would happen” said Jan Nelson of Bemus Point.

Each suspect will be arraigned in federal court with three charges including stealing property and taking it across state lines, carjacking and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

No word yet on any homicide charges.

Law enforcement officials are asking for them to be held without bail.

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