Home / National News / Feds Say Two Men Robbed, Killed Violinist at Her Home in the Middle of the Day


(NEW YORK) — A New York City violinist who was at her summer home was brutally murdered when two men knocked on her door and attempted to rob her, federal authorities said.

Mary Whitaker, 61, was a musician who played on Broadway, toured with Barbara Streisand, was a member of the Westchester Philharmonic, and spent her summers playing for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, according to the Philharmonic.

She was at her summer home in Westfield, N.Y., when the incident occurred, according to federal documents.

Two homeless men, Jonathan Conklin and Charles Sanford, approached her home in the early morning hours of Aug. 20 with the intent to rob her, according to the criminal complaint. Sanford told police that Conklin wanted to rob a homeowner so he could buy drugs and “live like a rock star,” the criminal complaint says.

In a chilling series of events, Sanford allegedly knocked on Whitaker’s door and asked to the use phone because he had run out of gas. When she said yes, Conklin emerged from hiding and allegedly pointed a rifle at her, authorities said.

“This is a robbery. Don’t make this any worse than it is,” Conklin said, according to the complaint.

Whitaker screamed, prompting Conklin to allegedly fire a round from the rifle that hit Whitaker in the torso, authorities said.

Whitaker then grabbed the rifle and struggled with Conklin for it, another shot was fired and hit Whitaker in the leg. Whitaker fell backward, hitting her head against the garage door, and Sanford dragged her inside the garage, authorities said.

The pair then robbed Whitaker’s home, taking her keys, credit cards, cell phone and checkbook, while Conklin ordered Sanford to finish killing Whitaker with a knife, according to authorities.

They then took off in her Chrysler P.T. Cruiser and drove back to Pennsylvania, where they used the credit cards and cell phone, which allowed police to track them.

Friends of Whitaker’s found her body in the garage and called police, who quickly tracked the pair. Sanford provided much of the information in the account to detectives.

Both Conklin and Sanford are now charged with stealing the car, unlawfully using the firearms, and illegally transporting commerce over state lines, which are the crimes that fall under federal jurisdiction. A local grand jury in Westfield will consider the murder charges.

Conklin and Sanford both entered pleas of not guilty on Friday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, N.Y., and are being represented by public defenders. Their detention hearings are set for Thursday morning.

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