Two men die in Putnam murder-suicide

(Original publication: June 28, 2002)

KENT With dozens of police officers on his trail, a man fatally shot himself in woods yesterday after apparently killing another man with the same shotgun in the driveway of a home on Old Forge Drive, Kent police said.

The first shooting took place around 4 p.m. near the ranch-style home on the west side of the road, a few hundred feet south of the intersection with Route 301. The shooter then fled into the woods behind the home.

Within minutes, dozens of Kent police, Putnam County sheriff's deputies, state troopers and state Department of Environmental Conservation police were swarming the area searching for the shooter, described as a Hispanic man with a shotgun.

Police went door to door on the dirt road, which winds around Sagamore Lake, advising residents to lock their doors and stay inside. They also set up roadblocks on Route 301. Around 5:30 p.m., a single shotgun blast could be heard in the thick woods west of Old Forge Drive. About five minutes later, police reports confirmed that the suspect in the 4 p.m. shooting had killed himself.

Police closed off a section of Old Forge Drive between Route 301 and an area about 500 feet south of the driveway where the shooting took place.

Lt. Alex DiVernieri of the Kent Police Department said two men were killed, both of shotgun wounds, one of which was self-inflicted. He declined to identify the victims, saying police had not notified family members.

Asked last night if the two victims knew each other or if the shooting resulted from a domestic situation, DiVernieri said it was too early to speculate on the reasons behind the shootings.

Mahopac attorney Laurie Gallo-Calistri, who owns the house where the shooting took place, said she had been renting it to a woman, Lori Hagerman, who lived there with her children and boyfriend, Jens Runge, but added that they were supposed to move out in the next few days. She said Hagerman had an estranged or former husband, Rafael Jiminez, who often visited the children.

Police would not say if Jiminez, Runge or Hagerman were involved in yesterday's incident.

"They lived here since November 2001, and there were never any problems. I had seen him (Jiminez) at the house in the past, and everything seemed OK," Gallo-Calistri said.

DiVernieri said police got a 911 call from inside the house seconds after the first shooting and there were witnesses to it, although he declined to identify the caller or the witnesses. After police determined that the shooter had fled into the woods, Kent police called on their new police dog, Justice, who is handled by Officer Thomas Carroll. They began searching the woods, as did troopers from the state police K-9 unit, while a state police helicopter flew overhead.

Richard Kaplan, a longtime resident of Old Forge Drive, was walking in the woods west of the road with his two Labrador retrievers when he saw the helicopters buzzing the treetops shortly after 4 p.m.

"I heard the copters going back and forth, and I knew it was a manhunt," Kaplan said afterward. "I was up there with the dogs, and I figured I ought to get out of there because the police were going to think it was me."

Kaplan walked out of the woods and saw two state troopers walking on the road. "I approached them, told them who I was and asked what was going on. They told me they were looking for a Hispanic male with a shotgun and advised me to go inside my home," he said.

Kaplan, who left Manhattan 30 years ago for the safety and solitude of the Kent woods, said yesterday's incident proves that no place is entirely safe.

Steven Williams was home when police knocked on his door and told him of the situation and to stay inside.

"They told me I'd be hearing helicopters and seeing police dogs and advised us to stay inside," Williams said. So he locked his doors and waited for his wife to come home.

Williams said he was driving home on Route 301 a little before 4 p.m., heading toward Kent from the west, when six or seven police cruisers passed him, their lights flashing and sirens wailing. But he did not imagine it would be for an incident just up the road from him.

The incident was Putnam 's first slaying since New Year's Eve 1999, when JoAnn Gelsomino of Mahopac drugged and then shot to death her husband and two adult children in their home before taking her own life.

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