MAYVILLE – Authorities from the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s office say they’ve arrested two men they believe are connected to the shooting death of Mary Whitaker, the 61-year-old Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra violinist. Whitaker was found dead Wednesday, Aug. 20 at her home at 8448 Titus Rd., just to the north of Sherman. Police believe she was killed after coming up during a burglary in progress by the two suspects.
According to news reports, Sheriff deputies Friday afternoon named both 43-year-old Jonathan M. Conklin and 30-year-old Charles Sanford as suspects in the case. Sanford’s residence is listed as an Erie address while Conklin’s residence was unknown at the time of his arrest. The two were arrested separately in Erie, Pa. following a two-day investigation, with authorities locating Conklin’s car in Erie and also learning that her credit cards had been used in the hours following the shooting. Authorities went to the businesses where the credit cards had been used and were able to place one of the suspects at the location where the card had been used.
The two will be charged with stealing property and taking it across state lines, car jacking and murdering its owner and using a firearm during a crime of violence. They face up to life in prison if convicted. They were to be arraigned Friday night in Federal Court in Buffalo.
Chautauqua County sheriff deputies began their investigation into the shooting death of Whitaker immediately following the discovery of her body at her residence. Authorities say she was shot twice, once in the leg and once in the chest. Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said during the news conference that Whitaker was likely being forced to give information at the time of her murder.
Whitaker was a long-time member of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at Chautauqua Institution, where she played violin. She stayed at the Titus Rd. home during the summer season and lived in New York City the rest of the year.
In addition to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s office working on the case, investigators with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office in Pennsylvania are provided assistance, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Titus Road is located just north of the village of Sherman and a section of it is located in the town of Sherman. However, according to the news report, the scene of the crime was on the section of the road that lies in the town of Westfield.