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New Information Released in Violinist's Death

The suspects allegedly met in Erie several months ago.
43-year-old Jonathan Conklin and 30-year-old Charles Sanford were arrested in Erie on Friday for their alleged involvement in the death of 61-year-old violinist, Mary Whitaker.

They were arraigned in federal court that same day for charges including stealing property and taking it across state lines, carjacking and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

"I can assure the Whitaker family, friends, that we will do everything in our power to make sure that neither of these two men, never again walk free from any sort of confinement,” said U.S. Attorney, William Hochul Jr.

Now we're learning more about how the suspects met, and the last moments of the musician's life.

Whitaker was a violinist who spent her summers playing for Chautauqua Institution’s Symphony Orchestra.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Buffalo, Conklin and Sanford met at a homeless shelter here in Erie several months ago.

The complaint states they were driven to Sherman, New York on Wednesday, August 20, where Conklin broke into an apartment and stole guns, including a rifle.

The men reportedly walked to a home on Titus Road in Westfield, New York with a robbery plan devised by Conklin, who was looking for money for drugs.

The home – Mary Whitaker’s.

"During the course of that robbery, Mrs. Whitaker was murdered. She died of a gunshot wound to the chest, but she also had another gunshot wound in her leg,” said Sheriff Joe Gerace, Chautauqua County Sheriff.

According to the complaint, Sanford knocked on the door and Whitaker answered.

He reportedly told her that he had run out of gas and needed to use her phone. She agreed and he tried to place two calls.

Conklin, hiding nearby with the rifle, then presented himself and told Whitaker that this was a robbery.

That’s when authorities say she screamed which prompted Conklin to shoot her in the chest.

A struggle ensued, causing a second round to hit her in the leg.

The pair then allegedly dragged Whitaker into the garage where Sanford apparently tried to stab her in the neck with a knife to make sure she was dead.

They reportedly stole several items from her home, including her car.

Authorities were able to track the men to Erie when they used the victim's cell phone and credit cards.

Erie Police and the FBI assisted the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department in locating the car, and the men.

The pair is currently being held in a Chautauqua County Jail.

They are expected to be in federal court for a preliminary hearing on August 28. No homicide charges have been filed.

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