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‘SHE WANTED HELP’: Family members say Waterloo woman sought help repeatedly before double-fatal shooting (full coverage)

Family members say more should have been done to help their mother.

Especially after she sought help from agencies and authorities in the days leading up to Lori McConnell’s violent murder.

She was shot to death alongside a Seneca Falls resident, identified by police on Monday as Charles Andrus. The third victim of last Tuesday’s violent shooting survived, and was released from Strong Memorial Hospital.

Matthew VanDoren, and his sister, Lori Bennett say their mother called a domestic violence resource center for help to get away from suspected shooter Emerson Tohafian.

Those calls for help took place a day before the shooting.

“She wanted help from them, and needed a place to go. They said they could help with a hotel,” Bennett told local media. She had called Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes to find a place to stay, according to Bennett.

“We are going to seek justice against those agencies, and police and the judge for our mother,” VanDoren added. “They wouldn’t help her get an apartment. What about deposit to come up with first months rent? All answers were, ‘I don’t know,” added VanDoren.

Due to confidentiality policies, Marisa Rube at Safe Harbors can’t say exactly what happened with McConnell’s calls.

“I can’t speak to whether there was, whether that call even came in,” said Rube. “But our advocates are trained, if they don’t know something, to reach out to a supervisor, and we’ll get the answer,” said Rube to 13WHAM on Monday.

She says their staff takes calls on the crisis hotline around the clock.

“Our advocates work diligently to try and find safety. Ultimately, it is up to each person that comes to us to decide what the best options are for them,” Rube continued.

Rube admitted the system isn’t perfect, but that staff at Safe Harbors are reviewing McConnell’s calls to see if there is anything to improve.

Her message to McConnell’s family was as follows:

“I’m so sorry that this happened to you. It affects us in ways that people don’t know, because we work with victims day in and day out. So whether or not we had personal contact with the person, the person was killed in our service area. That is very difficult, and our hearts go out to her children, and the rest of her family and friends.”

Read more from FingerLakes1.com’s coverage below.


Second victim killed in Waterloo shooting ID’d

State police have released the identity of the man killed in the shooting last week in Waterloo that left two people dead and another person hurt.

Troopers say 45-year-old Seneca Falls resident Charlie Andrus was shot and killed along with Lori McConnell at a home on Virginia Street last Tuesday. Another woman, Karen Zdunko, was hurt in the shooting.

Troopers say he will be charged with the two murders and the grand jury will decide if he will face other charges. The identification of the second person killed in the shooting comes 6 days after the incident.

Calling hours and funeral services for both McConnell and Andrus will be held this week. Calling hours for Lori McConnell will be Tuesday 10 am to noon at the Sanderson Funeral home in Seneca Falls. A private interment will be held in the St. Columbkille Cemetery. Calling hours for Chuck Andrus will be Tuesday from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Mull Funeral home in Waterloo. A memorial service will follow at 4 pm.

Read more on this story below.


Calling hours set for victims of fatal triple-shooting

Police have identified two of the three victims of Tuesday’s double-fatal shooting on Virginia Street.

They also say the suspect, identified as Emerson Tohafjian, has been charged with murder. He was charged with two counts of second-degree murder, and arraigned in Waterloo Town Court on Friday.

Investigators say Lori McConnell, 53, of Waterloo and 50-year-old Karen Zdunko, also of Waterloo were shot during the violent incident, which happened around 11:30 pm on Tuesday after returning from a local establishment.

Zdunko was hospitalized at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. McConnell died from injuries sustained during the shooting.

The second fatality was still not identified by authorities as of Saturday. Police say his identity had not yet been confirmed by autopsy.


WATERLOO MURDER: Victim’s family says she was ‘scared’ for her life

The daughter of one of the two people killed in Waterloo on Tuesday say the justice system failed her mother. The man accused of the shooting, in this case, should have been in jail – according to family members.

Emerson Tohafjian, 48, was charged with rape and choking a female weeks ago, and now – Lori McConnell, the woman who he is accused of fatally shooting left behind a family that says the incident shouldn’t have happened.

Her daughter identified one of the victims as Lori McConnell, who is the ex-girlfriend of Tohafjian.

13WHAM News spoke to Lori Bennett – who is McConnell’s youngest daughter says she lived in fear of Tohafjian.

“Last week, she came to me,” said Bennett. “She asked me to write down everything, make sure I took note of everything that had happened, just in case he killed her.”

“I think if you’re in jail for rape, I think you should not be able to come out,” said Bennett. “Like, there’s no bail, there’s no bond. There should not be any kind of bail or bond, and I feel like his family should be ashamed of themselves.”

State Police said on Thursday that while it’s easy to want to place blame on someone after something like this, the only person who deserves blame is the suspect.

A man was also killed, and a third was injured – but neither of those two individuals have been publicly identified.


Officials expect murder charges when Tohafjian is released from hospital (press conference)

State Police say Emerson Tohafjian, 48, will be charged with two murders when released from the hospital.

At this time, he’s in stable condition at Strong Memorial Hospital. According to District Attorney Barry Porsch, a grand jury will be convened to decide the other charges against Tohafjian.

“Our prayers go out to the victims and citizens of Waterloo,” said State Police during a press conference on Thursday.

They said, a person at the residence called 911. That 911 call came from one of the individuals who had been shot – however, none of the victims were identified by police. That caller noted that the shooter had fled the scene on Virginia Street.

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Two deceased subjects were discovered, and had apparent gunshot wounds. That person who was injured has been released from the hospital, according to Troopers.

They say Waterloo Police Chief Jason Godley requested New York State Police’s assistance with processing the scene, and locating Tohafjian. Later, State Police were asked to become the lead agency in the investigation.

That’s when State Police say they learned the whereabouts of the suspect, which was a campground in Phelps. After three hours of negotiations, Tohafjian was taken into custody.

Police say he had self-inflicted lacerations to his neck and wrist. The investigation is ongoing at this time, according to police.

District Attorney Barry Porsch confirmed that Tohafjian had multiple run-ins with local law enforcement in June. In fact, he pointed to two incidents, which resulted in a protective order being issued. The first on June 3rd when the suspect was charged with multiple misdemeanor offenses, and bail was set at $500. The second on June 19th when he was charged with first-degree rape, and bail was set at $10,000 cash. A Stay Away Order of Protection was issued.

Porsch says a family member posted Tohafjian’s bail on June 21st. He was scheduled to appear on those original misdemeanor counts in Town Court on June 27th, but failed to appear. Porsch then requested a bench warrant, and an additional $10,000 bail – but was denied by a local judge.

State Police said that they would not be releasing the names of the deceased. “We want to get it right,” a representative of State Police said. “As you can imagine, if you were a family member of one of the victim’s you wouldn’t want to learn about this through the media.” The Monroe County Medical Examiners Office is handling the identification portion of this process.

State Police said Tohafjian had an extensive criminal history; and that his dealings covered a range of incidents.

Officials said that additional information would be shared with the media when charges are filed.


Name of suspect confirmed by District Attorney’s Office

Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch confirmed on Wednesday that the man taken into custody at Cheerful Valley Campground in Phelps after a shooting was previously identified Emerson J. Tohafjian.

The 48-year-old Romulus resident is a suspect in the shooting, which left two dead and another injured.

The names of the victims have not been released, but Troopers say Tohafjian was taken into custody around 7:45 am around 10 miles from where the shooting happened. He was found with self-inflicted cuts to his arm and neck, according to police.

His condition is unknown, but was airlifted by Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital.

Neighbors recounted their shock at the circumstances, which law enforcement officials said is something that probably hasn’t happened in more than two decades.

A local taxi driver noted that Tohafjian followed the two victims into the apartment house on Virginia Street after they were dropped off at the address.

It was the third arrest in two months for the Romulus man, who was most-recently accused of forcibly raping an unidentified woman in June.

He was charged with third-degree assault, criminal obstruction of breathing, second-degree menacing, and fourth-degree criminal mischief following an investigation into a domestic incident.

Less than three weeks after that incident, Tohafjian was arrested again after a violent incident in Fayette. In that he was accused of choking an unidentified female, threatening to kill her multiple times, and forcibly raping her.

In that incident he was also accused of throwing a cat carrier, with the animal inside. As result, he was charged with felony rape, felony unlawful imprisonment, criminal obstruction of breathing, and cruelty to animals.

An order of protection was issued on behalf of the victim in that incident; and he was held on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 secured bond.

At 10 am on Thursday a press conference will be held at the Seneca County District Attorney’s Office. Stay tuned for the latest, including video from the conference.


‘UNEXPECTED NIGHTMARE’: Neighbors react to double-fatal shooting in Waterloo

Neighbors expressed complete and utter shock following a triple-shooting in Waterloo, which left two dead and a third with non-life threatening injuries.

“I can’t believe this happened here,” a neighbor named Ann told FingerLakes1.com. “It’s scared everyone around here. This is a small town – we don’t expect things like this to happen, even though we see it on the news in the cities around us.” While Ann did not want to share her last name, she had lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. Over that period, she said that while things had changed – she didn’t feel any less safe around her home. “It looks like an isolated incident, but things like this are so unexpected and sad,” she added. “I don’t think anyone will be forgetting this day anytime soon. It’s like an unexpected nightmare that we all have to live through.”

The violent incident was reported around 11:30 pm, according to state police, who say that multiple agencies rapidly responded to the scene.

Another neighbor, who was visiting a friend at a nearby apartment, said they was awake at the time – but didn’t hear anything. “We went to sleep around the time it happened, and my buddy woke up to the phone call from [The County] telling us to ‘shelter in place’,” Aaron Ellsbury explained. He’s visiting from Florida, and said that he couldn’t imagine something like the violent crime that took place on Tuesday happening in the small town. “I don’t know much about this place. It’s the first time I’ve come up, but seems like the last place this would ever happen.”

Yet other area residents expressed concern over a lack of attention and resources for victims. “This should be a wakeup call for the the community,” said Mary Welch. “We always assume or hope that there’s help for those who are in these situations, but it’s instances like this that remind us that isn’t always the case,” she continued.

Other neighbors applauded law enforcement for working tirelessly through the night and into the morning. “I don’t envy the job they have to do, but thank goodness they’re willing to do it,” added James Reitz, a Geneva resident with ties to the neighborhood. “They have a hard job every day, but then something like this happens – and there’s just no way to avoid the grief that they’ll have to wrestle with over the next several months.”

This story will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.


Suspect in custody identified through local media reports

More details have been uncovered after a double-fatal shooting on Virginia Street in Waterloo overnight.

The violent incident took place around 11:30 pm, according to state police.

According to local reports, and a taxi driver, who had just dropped two of the victims off at the residence – Emerson J. Tohafjian, 48, of Romulus jumped out of the bushes and followed two of the victims into the apartment house on Virginia Street moments before the shooting.

They say he had been banned from using their service due to other violent incidents involving a past-girlfriend.

A shelter in place order was issued, as Tohafjian remained at-large, but was ultimately taken into custody around 7:45 am on Wednesday at Cheerful Valley Campground in Phelps.

For Tohafjian, it was the third arrest in two months. In early-June he was charged with third-degree assault, criminal obstruction of breathing, second-degree menacing, and fourth-degree criminal mischief following an investigation into a domestic incident.

Less than three weeks after that incident, Tohafjian was arrested again after a violent incident in Fayette. In that he was accused of choking an unidentified female, threatening to kill her multiple times, and forcibly raping her.

In that incident he was also accused of throwing a cat carrier, with the animal inside. As result, he was charged with felony rape, felony unlawful imprisonment, criminal obstruction of breathing, and cruelty to animals.

An order of protection was issued on behalf of the victim in that incident; and he was held on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 secured bond.

After being taken into custody following the deadly incident in Waterloo – police say he was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital for treatment. Mercy Flight was on-scene at the campground, but it’s unclear if he was transported by ground or air.

No formal charges have been released yet.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

 

 

MORE COVERAGE:

Two dead, one injured in Waterloo shooting; suspect in custody (CNY Central)
Waterloo shooting suspect taken into custody at Phelps campground (Daily Messenger)
Suspect in Waterloo shooting arrested, taken to hospital (FL Times)
2 dead, one injured in Waterloo shooting; suspect in custody (IthacaJournal.com)
Troopers investigate shooting in Waterloo; 2 people dead (Syracuse.com)
Police: Two dead, one injured in Waterloo shooting; suspect in custody (WHAM)
Waterloo shooting suspect taken into custody at Phelps campground (WHEC)

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