A Seneca County Court has found Emerson John Tohafjian, who was accused of killing two people in Waterloo over the summer – guilty on all 18 counts filed against him.
The jury deliberated for several hours on Tuesday, coming back with a verdict of guilt on all of the charges filed against him around 5 p.m.
The charges Tohafjian was found guilty on included murder, assault, burglary and others.
Prosecution, witnesses and neighbors painted a grim picture throughout the trial. Tohafjian had been accused of hiding in the bushes along a Virginia Street residence – and ambushing Lori McConnell, Chuck Andrus, and Karen Zdunko inside the apartment house.
Zdunko took the stand during the trial and was the only individual to survive. She testified with certainty that Tohafjian was the individual who pulled the trigger and killed her boyfriend and friend.
This story will be updated later with more information from the trial.
Deliberations to begin as Tohafjian double-murder trial winds down
A jury will begin deliberations Tuesday for a man accused of killing two and seriously wounding a third in Waterloo last summer.
Closing arguments were heard in the trial of Emerson Tohafjian in Seneca County Court on Monday. He’s charged on an 18-count indictment for the deaths of Lori McConnell and Charles Andrus.
Frank Ciardi, Tohafjian’s attorney, focused his closing statement on suggesting someone else committed the crimes and trying to discredit the eyewitness, who survived being shot herself.
Emerson Tohafjian has one word for me on the way into court in Seneca County. The jury is expected to deliberate this double murder trial later today. @SPECNewsROC @WendyWrightTV pic.twitter.com/mgLTPBX49n
— Wendy Wright (@WendyWrightTV) December 17, 2018
He claims that Karen Zdunko was drunk at the time of the incident, and that McConnell and Andrus also had been under the influence for hours before shots were fired.
Zdunko clearly disagrees with those statements. She was in court during the proceedings and briefly lifted up her middle finger as Ciardi was issuing his closing arguments.
Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch reviewed the timeline of the night and disputes Ciardi’s claim that Tohafjian was elsewhere when the victims were shot.
Defense begins after more than 40 witnesses called for prosecution
The prosecution wrapped up its case Friday afternoon in the murder trial of Emerson “John” Tohafjian.
District Attorney Barry Porsch called more than 40 witnesses in the trial, which started with testimony Tuesday. Porsch called several more Friday.
The jury saw a video put together by state police Inv. Greg Schmitter, who works for the Troop E major crimes unit. The video tracked Tohafjian’s cell phone on July 10, when his ex-girlfriend — Lori McConnell — and Chuck Andrus were fatally shot at a Virginia Street apartment house in Waterloo.
Karen Zdunko, who lived in the apartment with Andrus and was McConnell’s friend, was injured in the shootings, which happened about 11:40 p.m. Zdunko, who testified Wednesday, said Tohafjian was the shooter.
Schmitter said Tohafjian’s phone was tracked during the morning of July 10 to the city of Geneva, where Tohafjian was painting a house, and later to the Cheerful Valley Campground in Phelps. The campground owner previously said Tohafjian was staying there illegally.
Schmitter said telephone call logs show Tohafjian making a call about 8:40 p.m. to Shawn Davis, a Savannah resident and friend of Tohafjian’s.
Davis previously testified that he let Tohafjian borrow a .22-caliber rifle that police believe was used in the shootings. Davis testified that Tohafjian told him he wanted the gun to shoot woodchucks at his brother’s farm.
Schmitter said by tracking Tohafjian’s cell phone, he learned that Tohafjian got to Savannah about 9:15 p.m. and was in the area for about 90 minutes. The last contact Tohafjian’s phone made with a cell phone tower was about 11 p.m. near Burgess Road in the town of Waterloo.
Schmitter said after that point, the phone could have been turned off or ran out of power.
The phone was found by state police two days after the shootings in Flint Creek, which runs through the campground. Sara VanDusen, a state police investigator who works at the agency’s computer crimes lab in Albany, said Friday she disassembled the phone and was able to extract data despite the phone being in water.
Zdunko says the shooter, identified as Tohafjian ‘smiled and left’ after unloading on two of them
There wasn’t any hesitation in Karen Zdunko’s voice when she identified Emerson Tohafjian as the man who opened fire on her, and two other people – leaving her as the sole survivor.
Pointing at Tohafjian, Zdunko said, “It was that [expletive] right there.”
Zdunko lost her friend Lori McConnell, and longtime boyfriend Chuck Andrus in July when someone entered the apartment on Virginia Street, and opened fire on the three of them.
Her testimony drew plenty of emotion inside the courtroom.
For the first time we hear from the lone survivor of the triple shooting in Waterloo in July. Karen Zdunko is on the witness stand and is testifying in the Emerson Tohafjian murder trial. @SPECNewsROC pic.twitter.com/LuMF6Tvhiw
— Wendy Wright (@WendyWrightTV) December 13, 2018
She testified that Tohafjian shot her while trying to get around her. After firing, he allegedly apologized then went on to shoot Andrus and McConnell. According to Zdunko, McConnell fell back onto the loveseat and Tohafjian unloaded his gun on her.
Prior to her testimony, a medical examiner detailed the nature of the crime and revealed that McConnell was shot 12 times.
During cross examination, Zdunko showed pushback by the defense as they focused on drinking, confirming that the witness had at least six drinks on the night of the shootings.
Her testimony wrapped up by recounting the last moments of her friend’s life. Zdunko watched McConnell take her last breaths as she sat there, on the phone with 911.
Then, the last thing Tohafjian did. “He just smiled at me and left,” Zdunko concluded.
Neighbors, taxi driver called to witness stand in Waterloo double-murder trial
Witnesses took the stand on Wednesday during the ongoing trial of Emerson John Tohafjian, who is accused of shooting-and-killing Lori McConnell and Chuck Andrus, at a home on Virginia Street, in Waterloo over the summer.
The devastating double-murder, which took place on July 10th – left a third woman injured – but not dead. Karen Zdunko survived, and recovered in a Rochester hospital.
Neighbors with surveillance footage, as well as the taxi driver, who dropped the two women off before they were shot-and-killed – took the stand on Wednesday.
A neighbor named Mary recalled what she saw on July 10th. The Locust Street resident said she saw a “shiny black car” driving past the home as she sat on a porch. It parked in a nearby lot, and a man in a light-colored shirt; and cream colored shorts got out of the car and walked toward the porch.
That individual, who the neighbor said was Tohafjian, jumped off the path he was walking on to the porch – when a motion activated light was set off.
The prosecution, led by District Attorney Barry Porsch showed surveillance footage matching the description given by the neighbor.
When attorneys asked the neighbor if she believed the man in the video was in the courtroom, she said, “yes, I do” and pointed directly at Tohafjian.
Meanwhile, another neighbor with cameras on his porch corroborated neighbor Mary’s claims.
Back inside the courtroom of the Waterloo double murder trial- surveillance video from bar where Lori and Karen were last seen before the shooting shows the two women getting inside a cab. A black car is seen following the cab pic.twitter.com/DkPuFjFr7X
— Stephanie Robusto (@StephRobusto) December 12, 2018
Johnie Robinson, the taxi driver, was later called to the witness stand, where he recounted the activities of the night, which concluded with him dropping Karen and Lori off at the Virginia Street apartment house, and calling 911.
Dash cam video from that evening captured audio of the two friends talking in the back of the car. For the family and friends in the courtroom, it brought tears to their eyes listening to Lori in what would be the last moments of her life.
“Be safe,” he’s heard saying to the women on the video. They wish him a good night in return.
He told the court that he would often pick-up and drop-off the two women, and would wait until they get back into their home before pulling away.
That night was not ordinary, though.
On the video, within moments, Robinson is heard yelling “Oh my God,” while looking to the right – out of frame. At that moment he saw a man jump out of the bushes, making eye contact with him, before smiling and waving.
Robinson saw what looked like a gun in the man’s hands. He immediately called 911.
They wouldn’t arrive in-time to save the two who were ultimately killed inside that home.
Cross-examination questioned Robinson’s account – compared to the neighbor’s. Robinson believed that the individual was wearing jeans and no shirt. Meanwhile, the other neighbors described a different set of clothing.
The trial is set to resume today.
Opening statements heard in double-murder trial
The trial began on Tuesday, the same day that Lori McConnell, a Waterloo resident who was brutally killed over the summer, would have turned 54.
Emerson John Tohafjian is accused of shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend Lori McConnell and Chuck Andrus in July. He’s charged with second-degree murder, assault, burglary, witness tampering, criminal use of a firearm, reckless endangerment and criminal contempt.
“He didn’t have a chance because he was presumed guilty at the 911 call,” Ciardi said. “New York State Police started their investigation to look only for him and it went from a murder investigation to a witch hunt.”
On Tuesday, prosecutors focused on the timeline of events.
One of the witnesses that will testify is Karen Zdunko, who was the third victim int he violent double-shooting.
“He shot Karen, shot her on the left side. The bullet went through the arm and another bullet through her rib cage here on the left side,” said Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch. “The defendent took the rifle and shot him [Andrus] right here in the chest. One bullet, killed him. And Laurie McConnell was sitting on the couch and that’s when he [Tohafjian] unloaded the rest of his ammo on her.”
Porsch is expected to enter more than 100 items into evidence during the trial. In the 911 call, Zdunko identifies Tohafjian as the shooter.
This post will be updated with the latest from the trial as the day and week progresses.
OPENING STATEMENTS: Defense calls Tohafjian investigation a witch hunt in Seneca Co. Court
Defense Attorney Frank Ciardi described it as a witch hunt on Tuesday, as opening statements were heard in the murder case involving Emerson J. Tohafjian.
He’s accused of killing two people over the summer. Tohafjian is accused of waiting outside Lori McConnell’s home, and when she returned with two other people – shooting all three.
McConnell was killed, and according to District Attorney Barry Porsch – shot multiple times during the incident. Chuck Andres, another local resident who came back to the apartment house on Virginia Street that night – was also shot-and-killed.
One side says the evidence will prove guilt. The other calls the investigation a witch hunt. Opening arguments ended and the double murder trial of Emerson Tohafjian is moving forward. Stay with @SPECNewsROC for very latest on this trial. pic.twitter.com/5NTtowqROB
— Wendy Wright (@WendyWrightTV) December 11, 2018
Tohafjian shot-and-killed McConnell and Andrus; leaving Karen Zdunko injured. She was sent to the hospital with her injuries.
On Tuesday, the defense team called Tohafjian’s arrest a ‘witch hunt’. District Attorney Porsch said that the evidence will prove guilt.
“The defendant took the rifle shot him right here in the chest,” said Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch. “One bullet, killed. And Lorie McConnell was sitting on the couch, and that’s when he unloaded the rest of his ammo on her. And you’re going to see and hear testimony of all of the bullet holes all throughout her body. And he turned around and left. ”
“New York State Police started their investigation looking only for him. And it went from a murder investigation to a witch hunt,” said defense attorney Frank Ciardi during his time addressing the jury.
As prosecutors outlined the evidence against Waterloo shooting suspect Emerson Tohafjian, the defense questioned the investigation, saying: "It went from a murder investigation to a witch hunt." https://t.co/SDe9UiOzQL
— News 8 WROC (@News_8) December 11, 2018