Man in custody after NW Indiana political activist, daughter found strangled

GARY, Ind. (FOX 32 / AP) - A former radio talk show host and her adult daughter were found strangled and beaten to death in and near their home, and a man who had worked for the victims was taken into custody in northwestern Ohio, authorities said Monday.

Lana Taneff, 63, was found dead Sunday afternoon in the home the two women shared outside Gary, and her mother, 86-year-old Velia "Val" Taneff, was found a few hours later in a neighboring rental property that she owned, investigators said.

"Autopsy results determined both women died of result of strangulation and blunt force trauma," Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said at a news conference. "Unknown (motive as of now). Very violent...gruesome scene there."

Both women had ligature marks on their necks, the Lake County Coroner's Office said. It declared both deaths to be homicides.

"We looked at them as our family, our grandma," tenant Gabriel Henderson told FOX 32.

Henderson and his girlfriend live in the rental home where Velia Taneff's body was discovered.

"I couldn't even sleep last night because it's heartbreaking. It's disgusting. I don't understand how somebody could be so nasty and do something like that to somebody who was so great," tenant Tiffany Lewis told FOX 32.

A handyman, 44-year-old James Andrew Lohnes, who had worked for the women was arrested on unrelated charges in Montpelier, Ohio, after a car belonging to one of the victims was found there, investigators said. Montpelier is about 140 miles east of Gary.

Buncich said the man was a Lake County resident.

The (Munster) Times reports Val Taneff was active in Democratic politics and hosted a political talk radio program called "The Real Deal with Val Taneff" that had aired on WLTH.

"It's just unfortunate that because she was so loquacious and gregarious, it leads sometimes to gaining the confidence or trusting someone who is really not worthy of your trust," said friend Theo McClendon.

Verlie Suggs, who was station manager at WLTH when Taneff worked there, recalled the political talk show that aired as recently as 2010.

"Val was an amazing woman. She was very feisty, very politically savvy and very opinionated and knowledgeable. Everybody loved her, unless they hated her - unless they were catching the brunt of what she was saying," Suggs told The Times.

Suggs said Lana Taneff had been fighting breast cancer for the past few years.

Sheriff's say Lohnes has a long history of violent crime, including sexual assault, and is being held on a very high bond until investigators are able to question him in the murders.

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