Four years later: Family of local community leader seeks answer in his death
Rochester, N.Y.---It’s been four years since a local leader in the non-profit community was found dead of a gunshot wound in a cornfield in Pittsford on Golf Avenue. Jeff Newland’s death remains a mystery that his family wants solved. In her first television interview, Newland’s wife, Lori, shared what her family believes happened and why. Lori Newland says because the case is unsolved there hasn’t been closure for the family.
“Nothing before leading up to that day helps us understand it, and nothing that has happened since helps us understand it in a way we can reconcile,” said Newland.
What is clear from the scene is that Jeff Newland died of a gunshot wound. But there was no weapon found at the scene. Newland’s car had a spare tire and a jack nearby but no flat tires. Police say his body had been moved. Investigators initially called it a homicide. Two years later-- with the FBI's help--Monroe County Sheriff's investigators said other evidence pointed to a suicide. But Newland's family believes he was killed by someone else. In either scenario-- both sides agree-- evidence at the scene indicates someone else was in that corn field with Newland and knows the truth.
Newland’s sister, Cassie Carbone, said, "Somebody was there, and somebody knows what happened. He was not there by himself. So, somebody has those answers and we need them to come forward."
Newland says their family was close knit-- and spent a lot of time together. She says nothing in the weeks and days leading up to his death indicated a problem. There was a family trip to Maine, there were plans for the future-- and then there was the ordinary yet memorable way they interacted.
"We made chicken enchiladas on Saturday night and we were dancing because he liked to pair the music with the meal so we had salsa music and we had friends over on Sunday so everything was normal,” Newland said.
Newland says her husband's death sent shock waves through the community in which he was active. He was a former Executive Director of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. He coordinated community wide mentorship programs through Lifespan. His family wants people to never forget his legacy or his case.
"Jeff was a champion for people and a champion for justice, and for him not to have justice, in and of itself is a terrible thing. We have a responsibility to get justice for Jeff,” said Carbone.
Lori Newland said, "We are well aware that this doesn't bring Jeff back, so there are so many aspects of this that we have to learn how to carry and how to carry the grief, and this burden and this mystery, it's too much. We need help, we need help."