2 arrested in fatal shooting of New York violinist

Josh Einiger has the story from Inwood.
A leading light of the Westchester Philharmonic, Violinist Mary Whitaker spent summers performing near Buffalo. This week, her summer home became the scene of an unspeakable crime, as investigators say she crossed paths with pure evil.

On Friday, the sheriff of Chautauqua County announced two arrests in the murder that shocked the tiny town of Westfield, New York. The 61-year-old Whitaker was minding her own business at home on Wednesday morning when detectives say Jonathan Conklin and Charles Sanford forced their way onto her property, then tortured and killed her. They first hit her head and shot her in the leg to get her to give them her valuables. When Whitaker had nothing to give, the sheriff says, one of the suspects shot her in the chest.

When worried friends found the musician's body hours later, her car was gone. However, it did not take long to crack this case, because investigators say Conklin was caught on video using the victim's credit cards in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Back in Inwood, where Whitaker lived with her longtime partner, it is the utter randomness that bothers Jason Minter the most. He has known Whitaker for years, and just can't believe her fate, so far from the city, in a place anyone would find perfectly safe.

"(She was) incredibly funny and kind, chatty and gregarious and just a great neighbor and all around just a really nice person," Minter says.

A grand jury will consider state murder charges, Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley said. It was unknown Friday evening if the suspects had lawyers.


The Westchester orchestra paid tribute to her on its website, saying she had been with the group for at least 27 years.

"A true and caring friend and an exquisite artist, Mary was loved and admired for her gentleness yet strength, her wisdom, enthusiasm, and generous soul," the tribute said. "We miss her terribly. May she rest in peace."

(Some information from the Associated Press)
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