MAHOPAC, N.Y. -Police say they are looking for a suspect in the murder of a 75-year-old Mahopac woman who was killed in her home sometime Thursday (April 27) afternoon.
Police Chief Mike Cazzari said that at around 3:18 p.m., his department received a call for a medical emergency for an unresponsive person at a residence on Coventry Circle. EMS personnel from the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department and Carmel police officers responded.
Cazzari said first responders discovered the body of Perla Gatchalian, 75, in the residence, the apparent victim of a homicide. Police would not release the cause of death and said the investigation is ongoing and an autopsy is pending.
“At this time, we do not have a cause of death, but we do consider this a homicide. We are waiting for the autopsy results,” Cazzari said during a press conference held a block away from the victim’s home. “The investigation is continuing. We are sure that it is a homicide. We are not getting into the details of the investigation now. We don’t want to jeopardize that.”
Cazzari said that there has been rumors and conjecture on social media and urged residents to discount them.
“I am not going to discuss any suspects or any leads or any conjecture that you read on social media or heard in the community,” he said. “We don’t want to add to the rumors of social media and Facebook.”
He said a neighbor had checked on the victim yesterday afternoon when she discovered the body. He estimated that she had been dead approximately two hours before she was discovered. Cazzari said the victim’s family has been notified, but would not say if the victim lived alone.
“We are keeping those things to ourselves right now,” he said.
However, in an email sent out to parents in the Mahopac Central School District, Superintendent Dr. Dennis Creedon said that Gatchalian lived with the Buffone family and looked after her three grandchildren.
“Please keep the Buffone family in your thoughts and prayers in their time of grief,” Creedon wrote. “This shocking trauma will weigh upon their hearts for many years.”
Creedon said counseling would be made available to students should they need it.
“Should your children or teens express difficulty comprehending this tragic event, our schools have clinical staff who are available to offer them guidance and support,” he said. “At a difficult time like this, we realize the true gift our families are to each of us. As you hug your loved ones tonight, remember the precious gift life is—in and of itself.”
The chief said police are pursuing every possible lead and that residents have nothing to fear.
“We had bloodhounds and K-9s checking the entire neighborhood,” he said. “Investigators are going door to door looking for leads and interviewing everyone they possibly can. It will continue until we solve it.
“I would say the community is a safe community,” he added. “We have a large law enforcement presence here making it safe. People should not go about their lives any differently than they did before. Continue as you were. I don’t believe there is a threat to the community.”
Cazzari said Carmel police are being assisted in the investigation by the New York State Police, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office.
The police department is asking that anyone who may have information in connection with the incident contact the Detective Division at Carmel Police Department 845-628-1300. All calls will be kept strictly confidential.
Tap Into Mahopac will have more details as the become available.