Tonawanda News

May 29, 2009

TOWN OF TONAWANDA: Accused of murder, Shepherd pleads not guilty

By Daniel Pye<br><a href="">E-mail Dan</a>

Stephen Shepherd, accused of murdering his wife Constance in their Town of Tonawanda home, faced a town judge for the last time Thursday.

John K. Jordan, Shepherd’s attorney, entered a plea of not guilty on Shepherd’s behalf before Judge Mark Gruber. Jordan also waived Shepherd’s right to a felony hearing, leading Gruber to send the accused back to the Erie County Holding Center to await a grand jury hearing.

Jordan, a public defender who met his client only two days ago, said Shepherd has been somewhat reserved during their conversations.

“He seems to be very despondent and remorseful,” Jordan said. “He loved his wife, and obviously he has lost his wife.”

Jordan refused to comment any further, specifically on what led Shepherd to the Catskills, where he was located the day after his wife’s body was discovered.

Town police began looking for Shepherd, 58, to question him in the death that was initially ruled “suspicious.” Town of Shandaken police located Shepherd Thursday morning at Catskill State Park, almost an hour southwest of Albany.

Town of Tonawanda detectives took an Erie County Sheriff’s helicopter to retrieve Shepherd and began the hours-long drive back. Officers said Shepherd didn’t say a word during the entire trip, but initially said he figured they’d be looking for him.

People who bought the couple’s home — which had been sold at auction on May 6 — discovered Constance A. Shepherd’s body and called police on May 20.

The Erie County medical examiner’s autopsy of his wife, 42, revealed her cause of death to be a laceration to the neck. Police have denied rumors that the woman was decapitated, but said the cut was very deep. The wound was said to be caused by a sword-sized knife, located in another room of the home at 16 Sunset Terrace.

That property entered into foreclosure last December, and Constance Shepherd had been involved in a lawsuit with U.S. Bank over her late mother’s estate, including the home, since July 2007.

Stephen Shepherd is being held without bail.

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