BUFFALO, N.Y. – In the end, the gifted trauma surgeon widely beloved as a lifesaver turned to violence, killing himself with a gunshot to the head as he was being sought in the fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend.
A two-day nationwide search for Dr. Timothy Jorden ended when police found his body in thick brush a half-mile from his Lake Erie shoreline home. A neighbor had reported hearing a gunshot from the area on Wednesday morning, and police with dogs found the body, dressed in surgical scrubs, on Friday morning.
Authorities had been looking for Jorden since Wednesday morning, when 33-year-old Jacqueline Wisniewski was found shot to death in a stairwell at the Erie County Medical Center, where they both worked. Friends said Wisniewski was afraid of the 49-year-old Jorden and had broken off their relationship some time ago.
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said Jorden went to the hospital with a shotgun and a .357 Magnum pistol intending to kill Wisniewski because of their breakup. Jorden lured her to the hospital basement, where he shot her five times at point-blank range, Derenda said. He then ran from the hospital and drove home, where surveillance video showed him arriving about 30 minutes later.
Just four minutes later, Jorden is seen leaving the house, down a path to a ravine and disappearing into the woods.
Derenda said Jorden killed himself with one shot to the head from the .357 Magnum and didn't leave a suicide note. He had withdrawn large sums of money recently and had given friends gifts.
As Jorden's tailspin accelerated, friends, neighbors and colleagues painted a picture of a man in decline. Jorden, once 250 pounds and clean-shaven, had lost up to 75 pounds and let his face get scraggly. His neatly manicured lawn got overgrown. He just didn't seem the same; not as "nice" as before, was how neighbor June Dupree put it.
Dupree said she was distraught over what had happened.
"It doesn't make any sense that he did that and that he killed himself," she said. "Oh, my God, it's just terrible. I can't get over it. I'm just about in tears right now."
She said everybody loved Jorden.
"He saved so many lives," she said. "This is what doesn't make sense. There's got to be more to it."
At the medical center, staff members were left to mourn the death of a respected administrative assistant and try to fathom how two lives could end this way.
"We are just starting the healing process and trying to cope with an incomprehensible event," said Jody Lomeo, the hospital's chief executive officer.
SWAT teams had spent hours Wednesday searching Jorden's home without success.
On Thursday, neighbor Tom Wrzosek told police he had heard a gunshot from the steep, thick terrain behind Jorden's house the morning before, about 90 minutes after Wisniewski was gunned down at the hospital.
Some of her friends told local media outlets that Jorden stalked her after she ended the relationship. One of her friends told WIVB-TV that Wisniewski told her the doctor had put a GPS tracking device in her car and once held her captive in her home for a day and a half, wielding a knife.
A woman who answered the phone listed in the name of Wisniewski's parents said the family would not be commenting.
The Buffalo News reported that Jorden joined the National Guard in high school, went into the Army after graduation and served with the Army's special forces, first as a weapons expert, then as a medic. In those roles, he served in the Caribbean, Japan and Korea.
Jorden earned a medical degree from the University at Buffalo and trained at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash. He received his certification from the American Board of Surgery in 2004.
He was honored by various local organizations over the years for his teaching skills and involvement in the Buffalo community.
Dupree said she will try to remember Jorden as a good neighbor and gifted surgeon.
"It's very quiet here today," she said. "It's like everybody is in mourning."