Officials urge caution following Lodato shooting

Officials urge caution following Lodato shooting

By Erich Wagner (Photo/Erich Wagner)

Local police provided few new details in the double shooting Thursday in Beverley Hills that left a piano teacher dead and her caretaker wounded. More than 24 hours after the incident, lawmen are still searching for a motive and the suspect.

Police Chief Earl Cook said police responded around 11:30 a.m. Thursday to the report of a shooting. Officers arrived at the 2400 block of Ridge Road Drive to find two victims suffering from gunshot wounds. 59-year-old Ruthanne Lodato, a resident of the home, succumbed to her wounds at the hospital, while a second woman, her caretaker, is still hospitalized for non-life-threatening injuries.

Cook said police are asking residents to keep an eye out for the suspect, described as an older white balding man with a gray beard and tan jacket. Cook Friday urged residents to be cautious in light of the shooting.

“This tragedy is of great concern to everyone, police and residents alike,” Cook said. “People are understandably scared, and we’re doing everything possible to protect them.”

Cook reiterated that investigators have not determined a motive, or even if the suspect targeted the victims, or if they were chosen at random. Police said Thursday that the suspect knocked on the door of the house and shot the two women when they answered.

The incident sparked a massive manhunt in the Beverley Hills neighborhood, complete with helicopters and K-9 units, and six nearby public schools were placed on lockdown as a precautionary measure.

Cook said that while they have not found any link to the shooting death of transportation planner Ronald Kirby last November, police will keep an open mind. Kirby, like Lodato, was shot in his home during the daytime.

“As of now, there is no link, but we would be remiss not to consider the similarities to other crimes,” Cook said. “The problem is [early in the investigation], you don’t want to not give due diligence to the facts of the current case that’s in front of you.”

Mayor Bill Euille said the entire city grieves Lodato, whom he knew personally. He said the city will ensure investigators have all of the resources they need not only to find the culprit, but to keep residents safe, beefing up patrols and security in the Port City.

“The city will make available all necessary resources to the police department,” Euille said. “We’re doing everything we can to bring closure to this tragic event.”