Mary Whitaker was found shot to death in her rural Westfield home.

A highly regarded violinist with the Chautauqua Institution’s Symphony Orchestra and the downstate Westchester Philharmonic was shot to death in her Westfield residence, Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace said Thursday.

Mary E. Whitaker, 61, of Titus Road, Westfield, and Manhattan, was found dead by deputies late Wednesday afternoon after friends had gone to her summer home when they were unable to contact her by phone, authorities said.

A motive for the homicide remains under investigation, though officials say they believe Whitaker was targeted and there is not a threat to others in the area.

“She died as the result of a gunshot wound and we are aggressively investigating the incident. My investigators have been on the scene since yesterday afternoon,” Gerace said. “We got there about 4:20 p.m. and they have worked through the night. We’re being assisted by the Jamestown office of the FBI and the New York State Police.”

More details, Gerace said, will be announced as they become available.

An autopsy was conducted today at Erie County Medical Center.

Whitaker moved to New York City after graduating from Indiana University with a performance degree in violin, according to biographical information on the web page of the Westchester Philharmonic, where she has been a member for 25 years.

Over the past three decades, Whitaker has performed with numerous major freelance orchestras in New York, toured regularly with the New York City Opera touring company, and also toured with Barbra Striesand during her 2006-07 North American and international tour, the web biography stated.

She also plays for pit orchestras performing in Broadway productions and has played with such chamber music groups as STX Ensemble, which records and performs the works of Iannis Xenakis; String Fever, a swing/jazz ensemble; and a string quartet that focuses on contemporary and improvisational compositions, the biography stated.


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