ADVERTISEMENT

A trauma surgeon at Erie County Medical Center suspected of luring his ex-girlfriend into a hospital stairwell before fatally shooting her multiple times at point-blank range remained at large late Wednesday.

A SWAT team had surrounded Dr. Timothy V. Jorden Jr.'s half-million-dollar Lake View home for nine hours before police completed their search and determined he was not there.

"He is not in the house," a police source said. "He is somewhere, and hopefully, we'll catch him."

The victim, Jackie Wisniewski, 33, a single mother from West Seneca who was looking forward to her son's pre-K graduation today, had confided to friends that Jorden had abused her and that he had been stalking her.

"She told me, 'I'm scared,' " said her friend, Heather Shipley. "She said: 'If anything happens to me, you know who did it.' "

Jorden, 49, who had served in the Army Special Forces as a weapons expert, had been exhibiting strange behavior and had recently lost a dramatic amount of weight, colleagues and neighbors said.

Jorden recently had been driving by Wisniewski's house and taking down license plates of vehicles in the driveway, Shipley said.

Wisniewski, who had worked on the psychiatric floor at ECMC, found a GPS system that Jordan apparently planted on her car to keep track of her movements, Shipley said.

That led Wisniewski to file a police report, according to Shipley.

The doctor also held Wisniewski hostage at knifepoint in her home, Shipley said.

"He threatened to kill her a couple of times," she said, "but I think in her mind she wouldn't believe it would actually happen."

Wisniewski also had confided to colleagues that she was being abused by a physician she had been involved with, said her boss, Dori R. Marshall, medical director of ECMC's Adolescent Psychiatric Unit. "She had disclosed to me she was in an abusive situation with a physician from the hospital," she said. "But she would not tell me his name."

Police said that at about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, Jorden lured Wisniewski into a lower stairwell of the David K. Miller medical building, next to the ECMC towers where she worked.

Police believe he fired multiple rounds from a high-powered handgun into her head and upper body at point-blank range before fleeing.

Within moments, ECMC security officers began a total lockdown at the 65-acre hospital campus, where there are about 1,400 patients and employees at any given time.

They were quickly joined by Buffalo police in a rapid and systematic search of the sprawling campus.

The Erie County Sheriff's helicopter hovered overhead as police peered into cars and searched the trunks of vehicles leaving the hospital grounds.

Authorities restricted movement into and out of the nearby Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence on Appenheimer Avenue, behind ECMC.

"Normally this is very safe," hospital volunteer Lois Peterson of Cheektowaga said. "I've volunteered here for 42 years. But this is tragic."

Nikita Patel, 25, a University at Buffalo medical student from Los Angeles doing clinical work at ECMC, was unable to get into the building following the lockdown. "A few of my friends are inside, and they texted me to make sure I'm safe," Patel said.

Authorities soon gathered information that led them to the shocking realization that the shooter apparently was a prominent surgeon at the hospital, stunning the already-traumatized medical community.

Authorities recovered spent shell casings and a bullet from a revolver from his office, indicating Jorden returned there after the shooting, possibly to reload, according to a police source. They also found a shotgun that wasn't used in the shooting. Jorden does not have a pistol permit.

Believing the doctor had left ECMC, authorities circulated photos of Jorden and his four vehicles, and put out warnings that he was a trained Army Special Forces weapons expert. He had served in the Army from 1996 to 1998.

All day long, Jorden remained unaccounted for as heavily armed police officers surrounded his house on West Arnold Road in Lake View, believing he could be holed up inside. They cut power to the home and sent a robot inside to search the property as they tried to determine whether he was still inside -- possibly dead -- or on the loose.

By about 8 p.m., police determined he was not in the house.

In trying to nail down what may have triggered Jorden, police were looking into the doctor's physical and mental condition.

ECMC employees told The Buffalo News that over the last few months Jorden -- 6 foot, 2 inches tall and weighing 250 pounds -- had lost about 75 pounds and was behaving in a withdrawn manner.

"He might have been having mental health issues," a police official said. Or, another law enforcement official added, "some type of serious physical ailment that caused the drastic weight loss."

Jorden's office may offer clues to his mental status. A police source said it appeared he had been living in the office. Hidden above ceiling tiles police found rancid takeout containers and dirty laundry.

Sandra Petri, who lives near Jorden's Lake View home, said neighbors had noticed the physical changes in the doctor about three or four months ago -- around the time they stopped seeing his Camaro in his driveway. They observed that he was less friendly and had stopped working on the house. "We thought he was dying," Petri said.

Shipley believes the doctor killed her because he couldn't let her go. Wisniewski and Jorden had a turbulent, on-again, off-again relationship, but recently she seemed to be trying to end it for good, Shipley said.

Last week Wisniewski told her about Jorden's bizarre behavior.

Shipley said she had known Wisniewski since 2010, when the two were in anatomy class at Erie Community College, where they were studying to be nurses. At that time, Wisniewski was living with Jorden, and the two had been together for at least a year, according to Shipley.

Wisniewski met the doctor on the psychiatric floor of ECMC and had an immediate crush on him, Shipley said. But Shipley described a tumultuous relationship between the two.

Wisniewski moved out of his house, because she believed the doctor was cheating on her with other women, Shipley said.

She recalled seeing Wisniewski with a black eye when she stopped to visit one day last summer. "She was hiding it from everybody, but she told me that he hit her," she said.

Cheektowaga police said Jorden was involved in two domestic incidents in 2003. "It didn't involve this victim," said Capt. James Speyer. "It was other people."

Shipley's brother called her Wednesday morning to tell her about the shooting at ECMC, but it didn't dawn on her until later that the victim could be her friend.

"I went to my mom's house, and Tim's picture was right on the TV," Shipley said. "I said, 'Oh God, please don't tell me that was Jackie.' "

After the shooting, the father of Wisniewski's 4-year-old son, Joe Jr., had the gut-wrenching task of going to Notre Dame Academy, a Catholic elementary school in South Buffalo, to pick up the little boy and tell him the terrible news. "She was all about her son," Shipley said. "She was a very good mother." Marshall also spoke about how much Wisniewski loved her son. "She was so committed to her son," she said.

Joe Jr. was scheduled to graduate today from pre-K. "She was going to have a bounce house and a graduation party," Marshall said.

Marshall remembered Wisniewski as "just the most loving gentle, kind and thoughtful part of our family on the adolescent unit."

"She was always a sweetheart," she said. "I can't believe she's gone."

email: lmichel@buffnews.com and mbecker@buffnews.com