Friends Shocked, Saddened By News Of Couple’s Murder-suicide
The blues musicians who frequent jam sessions at Arlo’s Tavern all knew Carol the conga player.
Carol Vaverchak had a passion for percussion, always smiled and loved blues music, said Victor Lay, a musician who played with her at Arlo’s. She and her husband, Al, were fixtures at the sessions, Lay said. Carol started playing her instrument later in life, but showed great aptitude. Over the four years he knew her, she improved greatly and could hold her own with players of greater experience, Lay said.
“You could see that this was a big part of her life,” said Lay, a drummer and percussionist from Endicott, New York. “She wasn’t just a dabbler, she wanted to be good. She was getting better.”
On Tuesday, state police responded to the Vaverchak’s home at 3083 Belmont Turnpike in Mount Pleasant Twp. and found the couple dead. Troopers said Tuesday they believed the deaths were a murder-suicide, with Al Vaverchak, 73, shooting his wife before turning a gun on himself. Autopsies conducted Wednesday provided confirmation. The Wayne County coroner’s office ruled Carol Vaverchak, 67, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head and her manner of death as a homicide. Al Vaverchak died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the coroner’s office.
What led to the shooting and suicide has yet to be determined. Troopers are still investigating the incident, including a motive, Wayne County District Attorney Patrick Robinson said.
The news left those who knew the couple greatly shocked and saddened. Al seemed supportive of Carol’s musical passion and usually attended jams with her, though health problems sometimes kept him at home, Lay said. When Carol wasn’t playing, they sat together at the front of the crowd and were always having fun, Lay said.
Carol was known for her generosity and would let others sit in on her congas, Lay said. She really lit up when she played though. Deniz Hromek, of Binghamton, New York, said photos of Carol playing congas proved popular on social media. She and Lay admired her chasing her drum dreams and playing publicly and think others did, too. It’s not easy to play in front of other people, Lay said.
“I think she was a genuine person who was true to her passions and herself,” Hromek said.
But the Vaverchaks didn’t show up to Sunday’s jam session, highly unusual for Carol. He thought it was strange she wasn’t there, but figured she was sick or perhaps busy with something, Lay said. He was shocked when he learned what happened.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Lay said.
Others who knew the Vaverchaks also expressed shock and disbelief about their deaths.
Jim Carro, who works at Arlo’s and plays guitar and piano at the jam sessions, know the couple for about 10 years. A love of the blues didn’t stop at Carol. Al dabbled with the harmonica on occasion, he said.
“Her and her husband were both good people. It’s very surprising,” Carro said. “They used to take care of each other.”
In recent years though, both suffered from health issues, Carro said. They cared for and helped each other through the ailments.
“The past few years have been hard on them physically,” Carro said.
Future jam sessions at Arlo’s won’t be the same, Lay said.
He repeated a line from a Facebook tribute he wrote in memory of his fellow percussionist.
“Heaven just got a new conga player,” Lay said.
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