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North Adams Man Pleads Not Guilty in Murder of Wife

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A North Adams man pleaded not guilty on Monday morning in Northern Berkshire District Court of murdering his 42-year-old wife, Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien
 
Mark S. Steele-Knudslien, 47, is accused of beating and stabbing his wife to death on Friday evening in their 107 Veazie St. home. 
 
Judge Paul Vrabel ordered that he be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without the right to bail. Steele-Knudslien will be back in court for a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 7, 2018.
 
According to police reports, Mark Steele-Knudslien admitted to police that he had hit Christa numerous times  in the head with a hammer and stabbed her in the back with a large, stainless-steel kitchen knife.
 
Steele-Knudslien walked into the Adams Police Station at about 8:40 p.m. on Friday asking to speak privately with an officer. According to the report submitted by Trooper Ryan H. Dickinson of Berkshire Detective Unit, Steele-Knudslien told Officer Michael Wandrei that "he had done something very bad and that he should be put in handcuffs."
 
Steele-Knudslien was not cuffed at that point but was read his Miranda Rights, which he acknowledged, and then told the officers he had killed his wife. North Adams Police were alerted and entered the Veazie Street home, finding Christa's body wrapped in tarp and bedding and tied up in the basement.
 
The medical examiner's report found blunt force trauma and injuries consistent with defensive wounds; the knife stabbed into her back punctured her heart. Cause of death was blood loss. 
 
During a recorded 29-minute interview, Steele-Knudslien told police that he and his wife had gotten into an argument the day before and that she often belittled him and called him names. On Friday, he "snapped," according to the report, and attacked her at about 5 p.m. on Friday in their living room. 
 
After killing her, according to the report, he tried to clean up, took a shower and went out to buy alcohol. It's not clear why he approached the Adams Police but neither of the Steele-Knudsliens appear to be local to the area and they had lived more recently in Adams.
 
Christa Steele-Knudslien, nee Steele, is originally from Rochester, Minn., according to her Facebook page. She apparently lived in Western Massachusetts for some time, particularly the Springfield area, before moving to the Berkshires. One of her two Facebook pages shows images and posts about fixing up the Veazie Street house that she purchased in March 2017 under the name Christa L. Torres.
 
She also was a founder and chief executive officer of the Miss Trans New England Pageant, apparently as Christa Hilfers, and a founder of New England Trans Pride.
 
The Steele-Knudsliens were married April 15, 2017. In a Facebook post a few months before that, Christa had written that "My husband and I are going to try to work things out." 
 
This is the first murder in the city since 2013.
 
Friends of Christa have started a GoFundMe to help defray funeral costs.
 

Steele-Knudslien Murder Case by iBerkshires.com on Scribd

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North Adams Man Charged With Murdering Wife


Mark S. Steele-Knudslien and Christa Steele-Knudslien
Update Jan. 7, 2018: The North Adams woman killed on Friday was stabbed and bludgeoned to death, according to an autopsy conducted on Sunday afternoon. 
 
The preliminary results, according to Dr. Robert Welton, an associate medical examiner for the Office of the Chief Medical, indicate Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien died of loss of blood because of a stab wound to the torso; a contributing factor was multiple blunt-force trauma to the head.
 
Welton ruled the death a homicide.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A North Adams man has been charged with murder in connection with the death of his wife.

 
Mark S. Steele-Knudslien, 47, has been arrested and charged with one count of Murder. It is alleged that he killed his wife, 42-year-old Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, whose body was found inside their Veazie Street North Adams home Friday evening.
 
An autopsy, to determine her cause of death, will be conducted at the Office of the Chief
Medical Examiner in Holyoke on Sunday.
 
Steele-Knudslien will be arraigned on the murder charge Monday morning in Northern Berkshire District Court. He is being held without the right to bail pending his arraignment.
 
The investigation is being conducted by State Police Detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office, members of the North Adams and Adams Police Departments and State Police Crime Scene Services Section.
 
Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien is originally from Rochester, Minn., according to information on one of her two Facebook pages. She was active in the trans community and had produced the Miss Trans New England pageant. The Steele-Knudsliens were apparently married last April.
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'Highly Decorated' Pittsfield Police Lieutenant Dies While On Vacation

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police Lt. Michael Winston died while on vacation Friday morning, according to police.

Police Chief Michael Wynn said the department does not know much information regarding Winston's death but is devastated by the news.

"Lt. Michael Winston was a highly decorated and well respected member of our department. At this time, the department has very little information about his passing and no information regarding arrangements," Wynn wrote in a statement. "Our of respect to his family, we are attempting to be supportive and patient, and we request that the public is as well. As we receive more information, we will disseminate it as appropriate."

Winston is a longtime member of the force and a member of the Special Response Team, internal affairs, field training, recreational vehicle enforcement, and special events planning.

 

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Superior Court Briefs: Jan. 2 - Jan. 3

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Tuesday, January 2.
 
Juan Aragon, 46, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on two counts of enticing a child under the age of 16, and single counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, indecent assault and battery on a person who has attained age 14, and misleading a police officer or other person.
 
He was released on personal recognizance. The incident allegedly occurred in Pittsfield on March 25, 2017 and involved two girls - ages 13 and 14.
 
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Wednesday, January 3.
 
Ishmael Lytle, 28, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of assault and battery on a disabled person, and caretaker abuse on a disabled person.
 
His case was continued without a finding for one year. Lytle assaulted a student while working at Eagleton School on February 20, 2013. 
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Firefighters Battle With Difficult Blaze At Cheshire Business

By Tammy Daniels & Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Firefighters battled a difficult blaze that destroyed a Windsor Road business Thursday night.

The Fire Department received a call at 7:21 p.m. of a garage fire as a blizzard swept through the region with frigid temperatures and gusty winds. Upon arrival, the former Kubota dealership was already heavily engulfed in flames.

"Our initial responders reported heavy fire from the garage spreading to the service area. We had a full response. Our first arriving engine went off the road, into a snow bank. Our second engine, when he got here, had electrical issues and lost all electric. We couldn't even flow water," Fire Chief Thomas Francesconi said.

The structure was recently purchased by J. Richardson Contracting. Francesconi said later in the evening that the cause was not yet known but appeared to have begun in the garage area based on initial reports. 

The initial responding officer had called immediately for mutual aid from multiple towns. Adams sent an engine while the Adams Forest Wardens, Savoy and Lanesborough departments sent tankers. Dalton Fire Department also responded.

Cheshire got its engine back in service with help from the Highway Department.

"Fortunately for us, our Highway Department was right on the ball. Our engine went off the side of the road and into the snow and they pulled our engine out," Francesconi said.

The former dealership is about three miles off Route 116, and the wind fueled and blew the blaze from the garage and into the former showroom area.

"If the wind wasn't so bad, it wouldn't have taken over on us so bad," the chief said.

The wind had not only fueled the blaze, but the fire also had a head start on responders. The building is on a infrequently traveled, narrow road, and by the time the department arrived it was "50 percent" involved.

"It is not a heavily traveled road, especially during a storm. You can go 10 minutes without seeing a car so nobody would know there was even a fire," Francesconi said.

One of the town's highway crew was plowing on Wells Road when he heard the call. He immediately headed to the scene and said the walls of the building were already collapsing. 

The firefighters struggled to get enough water to contain the scene. The flames towered high into the air while five tanker trucks were shuttling water from Hoosac Valley High School -- a trip that was taking at least take 20 minutes. Tankers from the three neighboring towns and from Cheshire shuttled water to the scene until the Hoosac Valley hydrants froze over. There are no hydrants in that area of Windsor Road.

When the wind whipped up, it sent billows of smoke, snow and sparks across the snow-covered yard.

Hinsdale Fire sent its rehab bus and North Adams Ambulance provided rehab on site and firefighters were routinely checking in to be safe. It could not put up its large tent because of the wind. Adams Ambulance also responded to the scene.

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