A long-simmering dispute between next-door neighbors over parking spots on a lakeside road in the Allegany County community of Cuba ended in horror Tuesday when one neighbor opened fire on the other using multiple weapons, then shot his own dog before killing himself.
Police said Thomas J. Jerge, 69, who lived at 30 South Shore Road, shot his neighbor, Susan Babcock, 61, Tuesday afternoon as she sat in her car.
"She was about to go pick up her husband from work," said Cuba Police Officer Jim Galatio.
For at least a year, Babcock and her husband had been feuding with Jerge over parking and the placement of trash cans. The Babcocks spent their summers in the lakeside house, and Jerge lived at his house year-round but also had a seasonal camp about a mile south.
The disputes had grown so intense that the Babcocks took out an order of protection against Jerge about a year ago, when he was involved in a physical altercation with Babcock's husband, Galatio said.
Then sometime in late July, police said, Jerge allegedly violated the order by communicating with Susan Babcock.
He was scheduled to appear Tuesday evening in Town Court to answer to that charge.
Police believe it's possible the impending court appearance triggered the murder-suicide. "But we'll never know," Galatio said.
After shooting Babcock, Jerge called a close friend to tell him what he had done and that he intended to end his life, police said. The friend called police at about 3:45 p.m. They found Babcock dead in her car.
Cuba police were joined by state police, including the State Police SWAT team, aviation unit and K-9 unit; Allegany County Sheriff's Office, including its SWAT team; Friendship police; and Cuba and ambulance squads as they searched for Jerge.
They eventually found Jerge's body at about 9:30 p.m. in the cabin.
He had died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. They also found his dog dead of multiple gunshot wounds.