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STABBING VICTIM MAY HAVE KNOWN KILLER, LANDLORD OF TOWN HOUSE DEVELOPMENT SAYS INVESTIGATORS FIND NO EVIDENCE OF BREAK-IN IN SLAYING OF WOMAN, 63

Helen Cook may have known her killer because a maintenance man who found her body in her apartment off Best Street Monday found no signs of a break-in, her landlord said today.

However, police said there are no suspects or motive one day after they opened a homicide investigation into the killing.

Ms. Cook, 63, was stabbed several times in her home at 49 Jaktram Court in the Pilgrim Village town houses off Best and Michigan streets. She was taken to nearby Buffalo General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 10:56 a.m.

"We really wanted to stress that . . . There was no forced entry; that's a fact," said Mark Trammell, executive director of Trammell Associates, which owns Pilgrim Village. "We were right there at the scene. It was very evident."

Trammell Associates is owned by Wilbur P. Trammell, the former City Court judge who ran for mayor in 1989.

The maintenance man discovered the body after Ms. Cook's granddaughter called the rental office because she was worried about her grandmother, said Assistant Chief of Detectives Gregory Simonian. The assistant chief said Ms. Cook had promised to call her granddaughter after the two had a phone conversation Monday morning.

"We got the call at 10:25 (a.m.) from 911, which was contacted by one of the maintenance men," Simonian said.

Simonian would not say whether a murder weapon was found.

"We've gone through the house, and we're still waiting for the report from the medical examiner," said Simonian. "We questioned some people. There is no suspect in custody at this time. The motive has yet to be established."

Mark Trammell said Ms. Cook was one of the first tenants to move into Pilgrim Village, an 8-year-old development of suburban-like town houses surrounded by spacious lawns.

"I've known Ms. Cook since, I think, the beginning," he said. "I think she was one of our initial tenants. She was very conscientious. Her house was always very well kept."

"It's extremely shameful" that she was killed, he added. "It's totally deplorable."

Trammell said Pilgrim Village -- which has 18 buildings with 92 apartments -- appeals to middle-class families who enjoy living near schools, stores and two hospitals, Buffalo General and Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Residents of the development and the surrounding neighborhood have not had problems with violent crimes or burglaries, he said. About 15 to 20 percent of the tenants are senior citizens, he said.

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