THE STORY OF CHARLOTTE LAHR
Charlotte Lahr was born to a patient at the Willard Psychiatric Center, and murdered by a patient at the Rochester Psychiatric Center.
Three-time felon Kevin Quandar, paroled just seven weeks ago, walked up South Avenue on Thursday afternoon, to Char’s Wine and Liquor, and came through the door.
She’s been there about three years. A widow, 46, making her way in the world. Wine tastings and class, rows of bottles, and beautiful murals on the sides of the building. One of those small-business owners who pours her heart and soul, and an incredible amount of work, into a livelihood and dream.
Char’s South Avenue Wine and Liquor.
And Kevin Quandar came through the door.
Her brother found her through the paper. That was in 1994, when Tony was an unemployed carpenter. He’d heard he had a sister, born four years after he was, and he thought she was adopted by people from Canandaigua. Their mother had been a patient at Willard, a vast warehouse of affliction, and he had gone at birth to an aunt. But when their mother turned up pregnant again there was nowhere to go so it was out to adoption.
She looked kind of Italian, a grandmother remembered, and had a newborn’s shock of thick, dark hair.
Tony took that to Carol Ritter, the newspaper columnist, and she wrote the story in a few column inches.
That’s how it was. He cast his bread upon the waters.
And two days later it came back to him.
A man with the same last name as Tony had been contacted sometime before, by a young woman looking for family. It hadn’t been him, but it sounded like it might have been Tony. And he told Tony, and Tony called the woman.
That was Charlotte Lahr.
Then she was 23 with a couple of little kids at home. She and Tony were happy to have found one another.
And Kevin Quandar came through the door.
Two decades later, at another stage of life, in her little store diagonally across from the Vietnam memorial at Highland Park, Kevin Quandar came through the door.
It’s all on camera.
He went into the liquor store, and Charlotte Lahr handed him what he asked for.
A seemingly normal interaction.
Then he came violently around the counter.
And began stabbing her.
He kept stabbing her, until the knife broke.
Charlotte Lahr “fought with every ounce of her being,” a knowledgeable person said.
When the knife broke, Kevin Quandar bent down to pick up the blade to continue his assault. He then grabbed a bottle, and struck her with it.
They know that because an investigator counted. An investigator with a heart and a family and a job to do counted each blow as it played out on the screen. Then it was all written up and collated and copied and will be carried around forever in the nightmares of people with badges and legal pads.
A customer came just before 5 and found her that way. The police and the firemen did all they could, but she was dead at the scene, and the CPR stopped and the detectives came in.
Late the next morning, the auditor at Monroe County Fire Wire was listening on a tactical channel. He heard something about the Sixth Floor – the chief’s office – giving the green light for some sort of operation. Minutes later, there was a sweeping raid by the Tactical Unit and Kevin Quandar was in custody. When the air broke again, it was to report that he was being taken straight to the Fourth Floor – where Major Crimes and the secure interview rooms are.
It’s first-degree murder, for the time being, and is going to be presented to a grand jury. The district attorney is handling it herself.
But nobody is handling it well.
Because it makes no sense. It is pure evil and nothing less. One more parolee committing one more crime, the worst doing the worst, another scene of primal carnage, played out like so many times before. In our town, it is a timeline of horror, with pointlessness and parole being the constants, the best of us being preyed upon by the worst of us.
The same week the mayor and the chief showed dots on a chart to argue that crime was in check – the same week that the newspaper editorialized that Rochester “is safer than you think” – this savagery happened. The City Council president had been right about violence, “it doesn’t seem to end.”
Charlotte Lahr was a strong, decent and intelligent businesswoman. She believed in Rochester and she was committed to it. She was doing and living just as she should have been. She was contributing, and she was community, and she was free.
And in broad daylight, on one of the city’s thoroughfares, at the counter of her shop, she was murdered.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2017