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Man charged with strangling woman, her daughter near Gary

Sun-Times file photo

A 44-year-old man has been charged with strangling an elderly woman and her daughter last month in northwest Indiana.

James Lohnes was charged Friday with two counts of murder and one count of auto theft for strangling Velia Teneff, 86, and her 63-year-old daughter Lana Teneff, according to the Lake County sheriff’s and coroner’s offices.

Police conducted a well-being check about 5:30 p.m. Jan. 17 at the home the women shared in the 2300 block of West 44th Avenue in unincorporated Calumet Township, police said. The younger woman was found strangled inside.

Officers began looking for the elder Taneff when they noticed her Cadillac was missing, police said. They later found her dead with similar injuries in a home she owned next door in the 4400 block of Taft Street.

Police tracked down the Cadillac to an impound lot in Montpelier, Ohio, according to the sheriff’s office. Ohio State Police had arrested Lohnes for driving the stolen car while drunk.

Lohnes’ nephew had placed the initial call for a well-being check, telling police that his uncle had done handiwork for Velia Taneff but that “he was a bad person and constantly getting into trouble,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed Friday by sheriff’s police. DNA evidence from under the elder woman’s fingernails indicated that she struggled with Lohnes before her death.

The homicides may have been related to an argument Lohnes had with Velia Taneff about an overdose death that happened in the Taft Street residence a couple weeks before, according to sheriff’s police.