Slain Schenectady woman remembered as dedicated mother

Woman fourth fatal gunshot victim of the year
Family and friends gather at the shooting scene Monday; Jennifer Ostrander (inset)
Family and friends gather at the shooting scene Monday; Jennifer Ostrander (inset)

Editor’s Note 8/5: Homicide victim Jennifer Ostrander’s sister initially indicated Monday that Ostrander was pregnant. However, the sister confirmed Tuesday, as did a prosecutor, that Ostrander was not pregnant. This story, initially published Monday evening, has been updated to reflect that. Our full Tuesday evening follow-up story: Two arrested, including one teenager, in connection with slaying of Schenectady woman

SCHENECTADY – Jennifer Ostrander, the woman killed in Sunday’s shooting on Sixth Avenue, was remembered by her sister Monday as a big-hearted mom with a flair for helping out people in the neighborhood.  

“She fed the entire neighborhood,” sister Amber Vargas said. “It didn’t matter who you were — she took care of the whole community.”

Ostrander, 31, was fatally show late Sunday outside of her Sixth Avenue home. 

No arrests have been made and police Monday night said the investigation is continuing. The indication is Ostrander was an innocent bystander, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said Monday.

Vargas and Ostrander are two in a family of 13 siblings. Vargas initially said Monday that family had just learned that Ostrander was pregnant, but said Tuesday she was not. Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney also confirmed she was not pregnant.

Ostrander, Vargas said Monday, took particular sense of pride in her seven years of sobriety, and her children, which ranged in age from 1 to 11, four of whom resided with her at her 1118 Sixth Ave. residence. 

She found sobriety after the family’s eldest sister took her aside and urged her to get clean for the sake of her kids. 

Tuesday update: Two arrested, including one teenager, in connection with slaying of Schenectady woman

Ostrander went outside to have a cigarette just before 10:30 p.m. Sunday when she was shot. 

Her 1-year-old was inside in a crib and the 2-year-old in the doorway, Vargas said. 

Ostrander was two weeks shy of her 32nd birthday.

“Now I gotta bury my baby sister,” Vargas said.

Upstairs neighbor Nick Monaco was among the witnesses who described hearing multiple gunshots.

He went downstairs and saw Ostrander slumped over with a bullet wound to her face. 

“She was sitting on the chair,” Monaco said. “She wasn’t moving.”

Ostrander was treated at the scene by paramedics but died of her injuries.

Jason Briggs, who lives next door, initially thought the popping sounds were fireworks.

But then a bullet entered through the wall and ricocheted off the ceiling before becoming lodged in his front wall. 

He and his wife crawled on their hands and knees to safety before calling 911.

“We knew what was going on because we were hit with pieces of paneling,” Briggs said.

Sixth Avenue was closed to foot and vehicle traffic until Monday afternoon as authorities combed the scene. 

Friends and family gathered at a vigil Monday afternoon, lighting candles and leaving a scene of lavender, pink and orange balloons. 

By 5:30 p.m., the crowd of about 75 spilled into the parking lot of the Schenectady County Library’s Mount Pleasant Branch, which was erected last year where Chubby’s Pizza & Deli once stood. Chubby’s was known as a notorious hot spot for criminal activity. 


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Ostrander’s death marked the city’s fourth gunshot homicide in 2020 and follows a 15-month stretch when the city saw no gunshot murders. 

The slaying follows one from July 5, when Ieasha Merritt was shot in the head after a party in the city’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood.

Merritt, who was pregnant, later died of her injuries. No arrests have been made in connection with the shooting. 

Ostrander’s death comes a week after the city saw five reports of gunfire July 28 where multiple people were injured, but all survived. Monday night saw still another shooting, two people shot on Orchard Street in Mont Pleasant. Police described the injuries suffered by the two people Monday night as non-life-threatening.

Neighborhood residents said they were rattled by the spate of violence.

“We’re trying to find a place to move to because of this,” Monaco said.

Briggs sighed.

“We said a prayer,” he said, “but there’s nothing else we could do.”

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact the Schenectady Police Department at 518-788-6566.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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