BUFFALO – Progress is being made in the prosecution of two men involved in the 2014 home invasion and murder of a member of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.
On Wednesday 31 year-old Charles Sanford pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally possessing a firearm. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. He’ll be sentenced in March.
Last month Sanford also pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder in Chautauqua County Court. He’ll be sentenced for that charge in February. As part of the plea deal, Sanford has also reportedly agreed to testify against co-defendant 44 year-old Jonathan Conklin.
Conklin was also in federal court this week and pleaded guilty to a federal carjacking charge, which could result in 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He’ll also be sentenced for that charge in March.
Conklin still faces several state charges, including second-degree murder, first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, and first-degree criminal use of a firearm. His next appearance in county court is a hearing set for Nov. 19.
Conklin and Sanford – who were both from Erie – allegedly went to Chautauqua Violinist Mary Whitaker’s summer residence in the town of Westfield during the early morning of Aug. 20, 2014, shooting and stabbing her, and then robbing her home.
After leaving Whitaker for dead and making off with her credit cards and vehicle, the two men returned to Erie. Her body was discovered by a friend later that day. Both Conklin and Sanford were arrested in Erie two days later following an investigation.