Raina Voll was a devoted mother to her sons, ages 7 and 2, said a friend and co-worker from the Lancaster restaurant where she worked as a waitress.
Voll regularly showed off photos of the boys – they wear firefighters’ helmets in one; in another, she tightly holds the oldest at a pumpkin farm.
“She would do anything for her kids. They were just her absolute world,” said Heather Serwon, who worked with Voll at the Olive Tree Family Restaurant..
Voll’s love for her children is a memory her friends and family are holding on to Friday, one day after her body and the body of her oldest son, Leo Klinger, were found in Voll’s French Road apartment.
Shane Stevenson, 31, Voll’s boyfriend, is charged with their deaths.
Stevenson pleaded not guilty and did not say anything when he was arraigned on two counts of second-degree murder Friday in Cheektowaga Town Court.
It’s a case that has shaken even the veteran police officers who investigated.
“To see what another human being can do to another person, especially a 7-year-old, is traumatic,” said Cheektowaga Assistant Police Chief James J. Speyer Jr. “Most of our officers have kids of their own, and it’s just hard to believe.”
Police first learned something was wrong at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, when they received a call about an abandoned child in a stroller behind the Union Road Community Church, 2628 Union Road.
Officers were able to find out where the 2-year-old lived, about four miles away.
Cheektowaga police went to the Kingswood Apartments, a U-shaped complex of two-story dwellings on French Road, between Borden and Transit roads. That’s when they discovered the bodies in Voll’s unit at 1331 French.
Police would not say how the two died.
“This was obviously some sort of a domestic situation,” Speyer said.
Stevenson was arrested at the apartment building where the crime occurred. Stevenson lives there and was in a relationship with Voll, Speyer said.
Speyer would not describe Stevenson’s demeanor when officers found him, or how he reacted to the police, so as not to jeopardize the investigation and prosecution.
“All the details of the scene, the evidence, any details of what actually physically happened, I will not be able to talk about,” Speyer said.
The 2-year-old and 7-year-old were brothers. Stevenson is not their father.
Police and child protection workers took the 2-year-old boy, who Serwon said was named Stephen, to his father.
Serwon said she encouraged Voll to move into Kingswood Apartments about a month ago. Voll and Serwon lived in adjoining complexes.
Serwon, who is 26, was upset Friday morning over the death of her friend and co-worker.
“She was a very sweet person. She was a person who went above and beyond to help anyone,” Serwon said.
Serwon said she knew something was wrong Thursday afternoon when Voll failed to show up for her 4 p.m. work shift at the Olive Tree, because Voll always reported to work on time. Serwon told The News she called her friend’s cellphone at 4:10 p.m. A man who answered Voll’s phone identified himself as a member of the Cheektowaga police.
He said police had found Voll’s 2-year-old son, with his mother’s cellphone, in a parking lot.
“I was terrified,” Serwon said.
At about 8:30 p.m., police came to the restaurant to tell the staff that Voll and her older son had been killed, Serwon said.
“We were all a wreck,” she said. “Everybody was crying.”
Petro Aronis, the Olive Tree’s manager, said Voll had worked at the restaurant since 2012.
“Obviously it’s a tragedy. Everybody is very upset here,” Aronis said Friday, declining further comment.
Anna Voll, Voll’s mother and Leo’s grandmother, expressed her grief on her Facebook page.
She posted photos of Leo, calling him “my beautiful angel,” and said of their deaths: “I just can’t even breathe anymore.”
Serwon said she met Voll’s boyfriend just once.
“He seemed to be fine, but you never know somebody,” she said.
Cheektowaga police are working with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office on the investigation.
Cheektowaga Town Judge Paul S. Piotrowski set a preliminary hearing for next week. After his arraignment in Town Court, Stevenson was transferred to the Erie County Holding Center. No bail was set.
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