It started with harassing phone calls, then the peace of a huge house in a woodsy enclave in this posh suburb was shattered forever by a series of gunshots.
Rigaletta Nikc and her father-in-law, Marc Nikaj, were killed just hours after Rigaletta Nikc and her husband had filed a complaint against Joseph Rukaj for harassing them with phone calls. Rukaj and Rigaletta Nikc's husband, Antonio, are cousins.Rukaj, 36, who won $17.5 million in the state lottery in 1990, was arrested in the killings Wednesday night.
He was charged with one count of second-degree murder in the Nikaj slaying and was being held today at the county jail. Rukaj also was shot in the stomach, but his injuries were not life-threatening, police said.
Police did not immediately file charges against him for Mrs. Nikc's death. The single charge carries a penalty of 25 years to life in prison.
Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, who said it was Mount Pleasant's first homicide in several years, refused to talk about motive, saying she did not want to hurt the grieving family.
The slayings took place outside the large two-story brick house, which is surrounded by a 4-foot stone wall, with 8-foot, lantern-topped pillars marking the entrance to its driveway. Neighbors said the two-acre property in this quiet town 35 miles north of New York City sold for $675,000 when Nikc bought it about a decade ago.
Mrs. Nikc, 31, was confronted outside the house and was shot once behind the ear and once in the chest, police said. Nikaj, 60, who had followed his daughter-in-law, was shot three times.
Nikc and the couple's daughters, 9 and 5, were not hurt. Police said they weren't sure how Rukaj was shot, but he showed up at a police station and was bleeding from his wounds.
Police found a 9 mm handgun in Rukaj's car and said ballistics tests would be run to see if it was the weapon used in the slayings.
Rukaj, of Rye Brook, works as a real estate investor. His family, the Nikaj family and other Albanian families who emigrated in the 1960s made a success of real estate investments in the New York City borough of the Bronx, a cousin said.
Gaspar Kalaj of the Albanian American Civic Association in the Bronx said the families were "two of the biggest families and most prestigious families in our community."
Murder in Westchester bucked the national trend of lower crime in 1995, going up from 28 to 31. But killings are still rare in high-income communities, where neighbors reacted with predictable astonishment.