Waterloo murder trial set for December

The trial date for a Varick man accused of ambushing and killing two people this summer in the village of Waterloo has been set.

On Monday in Seneca County Court, acting Judge Rick Healy said the trial of Emerson “John” Tohafjian will start Dec. 3. Pretrial motions in the case were also argued Monday.

Tohafjian faces first-degree murder charges in the July 10 shooting deaths of Lori McConnell and Chuck Andrus in a Virginia Street apartment house. Karen Zdunko, a friend of both victims, was injured in the shooting.

In court Monday, Tohafjian’s attorney — Frank Ciardi — said he has withdrawn his request for Healy to appoint a trial investigator for the defense at county expense. Ciardi said he has requested a change of venue, claiming his client can’t get a fair trial in the county due to media coverage of the case.

District Attorney Barry Porsch said he will oppose that request.

Ciardi has also asked for a hearing to suppress evidence, including items police took from a tent at a campground in Phelps after the shootings. Tohafjian had been staying in the tent illegally, according to the owner of the campground.

Ciardi also wants to argue police taking custody of Tohafjian’s cell phone. Porsch said the phone was found in a body of water near the campground.

Police have not recovered the gun they believe Tohafjian used in the shootings. Police said previously it was a long gun (shotgun).

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