Murder of New York violinist reverberates in Indiana

Mary Whitaker

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The gruesome murder of a violin virtuoso in New York state is hitting some Hoosiers hard.

Mary Whitaker, who was allegedly tortured and shot to death by two homeless men, is a Greencastle, Indiana native. Whitaker’s body was found last Wednesday in her summer home in southwestern New York state.

“I was always struck, even in school, was how many people liked her. She was liked by every segment. She wasn’t part of any clique,” said Glenn Gass, the Provost Professor of Music at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington.

Gass grew up in Greenfield with Mary. She went to IU, he to DePauw, but he says she still helped him as they both moved up in the world of music.

“She did all kinds of favors for me,” he said. “Finding musicians in Bloomington to play pieces that I wrote and doing things that didn’t benefit her at all. She just did it to be kind and helpful. And that’s the kind of person she was,” said Gass.

Police in Chautauqua County, where Mary was murdered, say they believe she may have tried to thwart a robbery. With the help of the FBI, two men, Jonathan Conklin and Charles Sanford, both believed to be homeless, were arrested. Police say the two may have tortured Mary before shooting her in the head.

“We loved Mary. To think of her life ending in that way. In that kind of horrid, fearful way is just appalling. Really. It just sends you back to happier thoughts just to protect yourself,” said Gass.

Mary toured the world playing everything from the classics to Broadway even working with Barbara Streisand. But it’s her kindness that Gass says will be most remembered.

“She was just a wonderful person and a wonderful talent,” Gass said.

Mary Whitaker was a 1971 graduate of Greencastle High School. Conklin and Sanford are both from Pennsylvania. They face several federal charges, but a grand jury will decide if a murder charge will be filed. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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