A second of the three shooting victims has been identified
The suspect in Tuesday's deadly attack in Waterloo is now charged with second-degree murder.
Emotions ran high as Emerson "John" Tohafjian was arraigned Friday afternoon in Waterloo Town Court. He is accused of shooting and killing two people and injuring another.
State Police have identified two of the three victims in Tuesday night's triple shooting.
Lori McConnell, 53, was killed on Virginia Street along with a man who has not yet been identified. Both victims died from gunshot wounds.
Karen Zdunko, 50, was also shot and treated at Strong Memorial Hospital for her injuries. She has since been released from the hospital.
Tohafjian is being held without bail. He is due back in court next Thursday for a preliminary hearing.
Tohafjian has a lengthy criminal history that spans nearly 30 years.
A News 10NBC investigation revealed Tohafjian was first arrested back in 1990 and convicted of robbery. Since then, he has been in and out of jail on a number of violent crimes.
On June 3 of this year, Tohafjian was charged with assault, obstruction of breathing, menacing, and criminal mischief for allegedly hitting and choking one of the victims in the homicide. He was arraigned in the Town of Fayette Court, where Judge Duane Riegel set bail at $500 and issued an order of protection.
Two weeks later, on June 19, Tohafjian is accused of ignoring that order of protection. Court paperwork indicates this time, he raped and choked the woman to the point where she thought she would die. He then picked up and threw a cat carrier, with a cat named “Ollie" inside, onto a road, causing an injury to the cat. He again appeared in front of Riegel, who, this time set bail at $10,000.
Riegel said he followed the recommendation of the Seneca County District Attorney’s office in setting bail. At a press conference on Thursday, county District Attorney Barry Porch said, “In New York state, bail is to ensure that the defendant returns to court. We don't have preventable detention in New York.”
Judicial sources tell News 10NBC that while $10,000 bail may seem low in some counties, it’s not unheard of in smaller, rural counties even on a serious felony charge. The judge has ultimate discretion.
On June 21, a family member posted Tohafjian’s bail.
"He was scheduled to appear in the town court on June 27, 2018. He failed to appear on that day and my office requested a bench warrant and recommendation of an additional $10,000 bail of $20,000 bond and the judge refused that request,” Porch said.
That was in the Town of Varick Court. Judge Jeff Houge Thursday declined to comment on the case, saying he is not legally able to.
News 10NBC has learned from three separate sources that it is unconstitutional to double someone’s bail without them being present in the courtroom.
The Town of Varick Court was assured by Tohafjian’s attorney that his failure to appear in court on the June 27 was a scheduling misunderstanding and all parties knew about and agreed to a new, July 11 court date.
Typically, when a defendant does not show up for court and has a private attorney, the court attempts to reach that attorney to make sure there wasn’t a scheduling error or assumed adjournment before issuing a bench warrant. A bench warrant should only be issued if the court believes the defendant willfully avoided the appearance.
“We all want to put blame on somebody and we have, there's a system of laws in our country but when it's all said and done, the person that pulled the trigger is the person that should be held accountable and he's really the real one to be blamed here,” New York State Police Captain Barry Chase said.
Members of McConnell's family earlier this week expressed their frustration with how Tohafjian's cases were handled.
“Rape is no joke and I feel like we just treated it as a joke and just released him to let him go do something worse,” stated Ryan VanDoren, the victim’s son. “We knew what he was capable of and he was roaming the streets.”