Tonawanda News

The Town

May 21, 2009

TOWN OF TONAWANDA: Husband of slain woman found

The husband of a town woman found murdered in her home has been located by police in Catskill State Park, almost an hour southwest of Albany.

Town police were seeking Stephen J. Shepherd, 58, for questioning relating to the suspicious death. Assistant Chief Jerome Uschold said Town of Shandaken police located Shepherd Thursday morning and that local detectives were flown by Erie County Sheriff’s helicopter to question him. Shepherd was charged with second-degree murder and transported back to the Town of Tonawanda Thursday evening.

An Erie County medical examiner’s autopsy of Constance A. Shepherd, 42, revealed the cause of death to be a deep laceration to her neck, leading police to rule the death a homicide. Chief Anthony Palombo said the cut was caused by a “sword-sized knife” that was located in another room of the house at 16 Sunset Terrace.

Uschold said police had to await a search warrant Wednesday before lifting covers that had been drawn over the head and upper part of her body.

“There were rumors of her being decapitated, but that’s not true,” Uschold said.

Shandaken police found Stephen Shepherd camping at a fishing spot after identifying his tan 2003 Dodge Neon, for which town police had issued a nationwide “attempt to locate” alert. The department held off on publicly identifying the woman until her identity could be confirmed concretely.

“The Erie County medical examiner confirmed her identity through dental records, which is why it took so long,” Uschold said.

At this point detectives are unsure how long Constance Shepherd had been dead inside the home. Neighbors were reluctant to comment on the event or the couple, saying the Shepherds mostly kept to themselves.

The property entered into foreclosure last December, and Constance Shepherd was sued by U.S. Bank over her late mother’s estate — which included the home — in July 2007. While it was the people who bought the property at auction on May 6 who called police after making the grisly discovery, Lt. Nick Bado said the house didn’t appear to be prepared for a transition to new owners.

“The people’s stuff all looks like it’s all still in the there,” Bado said. “There is probably more legal wrangling to come.”

Contact reporter Daniel Pye at 693-1000, ext. 158.

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