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Woman Found Not Guilty in Williamstown Hit-and-Run

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Williamstown woman was found not guilty on Wednesday of leaving the scene of a hit-and-run that has left a local woman in a coma for two years. 
 
But she and her husband were both found guilty of misleading police in the days following the incident that seriously injured Cheryl J. LeClaire, 54, of White Oaks Road in Williamstown. They were found not guilty of conspiracy to mislead. 
 
A Superior Court jury deliberated for eight hours before returning the verdicts in the cases against Sally J. Gould, 73, the driver in the incident, and her husband, John T. Gould, 71.
 
LeClaire was walking her dog on the evening of Feb. 9, 2016, along North Hoosac Road in Williamstown. A passing motorist found her lying in the road, unresponsive, at about 6:30 p.m. She was taken to Berkshire Medical Center with severe head trauma. Her dog was unharmed. 
 
Police investigators believed that LeClaire had been struck or brushed by a passing vehicle but there was little physical evidence at the scene and no witnesses. Some automotive materials led police to look for a Honda CRV with front-end damage.
 
The Goulds were arrested two weeks later and charged with misleading police in their investigation and conspiracy to mislead a police officer. Sally Gould was also charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. 
 
The charges were based on actions taken by the Goulds to repair their 2014 Honda CRV, including replacing a windshield. Defensive attorneys argued that the sport utility vehicle being parked outside during this time and John Gould's willingness to speak to police showed there was no attempt to cover anything up. However, authorities said the Goulds gave inconsistent statements and told them the damage had occurred in a parking lot collision.
 
Judge John Agostini released both Goulds on personal recognizance pending sentencing on March 26 at 2 p.m.
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Pellet Stove Sparks Fire at Readsboro Inn

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

A firefighter uses a ladder to reach the third floor. 
READSBORO, Vt. — The historic Readsboro Inn was spared from catastrophe in the wee hours of Tuesday when a quick thinking tenant and teams of firefighters were able to snuff out a pellet stove fire on its top floor. 
 
"The fire blew through the side of the building, it ran up the roof rafters and down the other side and through the whole attic," said Fire Chief Adam Codogni.
 
The fire was seen before 2:30 a.m. when a guest went outside to have a cigarette and noticed smoke coming through top of the three-story building. A tenant grabbed an extinguisher and was able to contain the stove blaze, but the fire had worked its way behind the walls and up into the attic.
 
BJ Gamache, who has an apartment in the building, said later that it was a guest at the inn who went outside around 2 and saw the smoke, then began banging on apartment doors to wake everyone. 
 
Gamache said he called 911 and the owners, then grabbed fire extinguishers. 
 
"So I climbed out the window on the third floor onto a ladder that is attached to the building and started spraying the fire flames with the fire extinguishers from outside," he wrote on a Facebook post on the story. "I used five of them to get flames out that I could see before the Fire Department made it here. I had to keep running downstairs to grab more of them."
 
The guest remained with him to help out while Gamache battled the blaze.
 
"To be honest it all happened so fast and the only thing I was thinking was not letting Marcia [Evans] and Vince [Guest], the owners, lose their building," he said. "My place to live and my job."
 
Codogni and the first crew of firefighters arrived with minutes and the decision was made to start pulling down the interior walls to get to the fire.
 
"We were lucky to have a good crew tonight just to get that initial attack," the chief said. "We had interior firefighters to get up there and hit it. 
 
"If it was really roaring, we would have been in big trouble."
 
A second alarm was called at 2:30 a.m. and mutual aid had begun to pour in from the surrounding communities: Monroe, Halifax, Stamford and Whitingham arrived, as well as Massachusetts companies from Charlemont, Clarksburg, Colrain, Heath and Rowe. North Adams sent its ladder truck and North Adams Ambulance Service sent an ambulance and its rehab trailer.
 
The conditions were poor as snow had been falling for a couple hours by the time the fire was reported and the roads to the mountain town were getting slick. The Florida Fire Department had also tried to send a truck but it reportedly went off the road.
 
The inn dates back to the late 19th century and hosted a number of businesses until being turned into an inn and popular restaurant in the 1930s. The original structure is connected to a much larger later building that holds a tavern. The property is currently on the market and is listed as having four apartments and seven inn rooms. 
 
Not all the rooms were occupied and everyone was safely evacuated. 
 
It took about two hours to contain the fire. The third floor was damaged by fire and the efforts to contain it and the second floor has some water damage. The first floor, which has the restaurant, appeared to have escaped any damage.
 
Owner Marcia Evans said there was no one in the apartment with the pellet stove. The stoves have been running because of the cold and prior problems with pipes freezing. 
 
"The bar is OK. I don't know if there'll be power to the restaurant but I'm planning to go forward with it," she said. 
 
Efforts were being made to get the power back on to the newer builder and it was believed at least the restaurant in the inn could be powered up. Green Mountain Power had disconnected the electricity. 
 
The inn is a landmark on the town's main street, which is also Route 100. In addition to the attached structure, there's a house directly across a small avenue and a house behind it. 
 
"Anything to do with this building could turn out bad, especially with the amount of people living in it," Codogni said, adding he was thankful for the turnout by mutual aid. "This is a tough night to get everybody together."
 
It was almost 4:30 when the scene began to clear. 
 
"I love the Readsboro Fire Department, they were right on it," she said. "Right on it."
 
Updated on March 13 to clarify who first reacted to the fire.
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Fire Guts Burke Avenue Home In Pittsfield

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A family of five was displaced Sunday night after a fire gutted their Burke Street home.
 
Just before 6 p.m. on Sunday, dispatch received multiple calls of flames shooting out of the front of a duplex at 125 Burke Ave. Shortly after firefighters arrived, the windows on the second floor blew out and the fire quickly spread throughout the interior of the home.
 
"We started deploying hand streams and by the time we were getting in position, the second-floor window in the back of the building, or what we call the C side, blew out and the second floor flashed over," Deputy Fire Chief Matt Noyes said.
 
"From there, it just kind of took off through the house."
 
The duplex was occupied by the same family and none of the residents were harmed. At least three were inside the building at the time and were able to escape. However, the family dog died and a cat is still missing. 
 
"It is pretty well gutted. Structurally it is still sound but the contents of the first and second floor are destroyed. They also lost a family dog and we have a cat that is missing," Noyes said.
 
Two of the family members were transported to Berkshire Medical Center. According to Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski, one woman had a pre-existing medical condition and she was transported for precautionary measures and another family member reported difficulty breathing. Noyes said a firefighter was also transported for a knee injury.
 
The family is now working with the Red Cross.
 
Noyes said when Engine 5 first arrived, it found flames spreading quickly on the first floor. When Noyes arrived, he called in a second alarm, bringing all on-duty firefighters to the scene. 
 
"Immediately when I got on scene, I saw the volume of fire and I made it double [alarm] which gives you everybody we have, which is 18 guys," Noyes said.
 
An engine company from Lenox covered Pittsfield's headquarters, Dalton sent a ladder company to the scene, and Hinsdale provided rehab. 
 
Noyes said the firefighters had a little difficulty getting access to water, running a line a good distance from the hydrant.
 
Once on scene, a crew took a hand line to the fire while others got into position to attack it from the rear. But, just as the firefighters shut down the front line and prepared to go in the back, the windows blew out.
 
"We had fire blowing out of the front of the building. We set up to go in the back, there is a sliding door, we wanted to come in and push it out the front of the building. It was growing rapidly and we had an alarm company that was here grab a line and hit it quickly,"
 
From then on, all on the scene were busy combating a significant amount of flames. Noyes said once the department was able to get in, the fire was knocked down quickly.
 
"They battled. Once we were able to get in there, they put the fire out quickly. There was so much fire, such a large volume of fire, we had all of our crews working. They worked hard. They battled hard. They put it out quickly but it was going pretty good before we got here," Noyes said.
 
Fire Inspectors responded to the scene but have not yet determined a cause of the fire.


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Superior Court Briefs: Feb. 23

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Friday, February 23.
 
Bruce Lee Trudeau, 41, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single count of breaking and entering in the daytime and assault and battery related to breaking into a home and assaulting a 29-year-old woman on June 26, 2016. He also pleaded guilty to single counts of breaking and entering in the daytime, conspiracy, misleading a police officer, larceny from a building, wanton destruction of property and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license relating to a house break in Hancock on May 9, 2017. He pleaded guilty to single counts of breaking and entering a home in the daytime, and larceny from a building in connection with a house break in Pittsfield on October 16, 2017.
 
He was ordered to serve four to six years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the breaking and entering, and conspiracy charges. He was given a concurrent one-year sentence at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the other charges.
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Missing Clarksburg Woman's Body Found in Hatfield

Staff Reports
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The human remains discovered in Hatfield on Tuesday have been identified as those of Joanne Ringer, who went missing almost exactly a year ago.
 
Ringer, 39, was last seen at her home on Hall's Ground in Clarksburg on March 2, but never showed up at her new job driving a taxi in Easthampton. Her green 1999 Volkswagen Jetta was discovered on Exeter Street in Easthampton four days later. 
 
Her husband, Charles "Chad" Reidy, was the sole suspect in her disappearance. He killed himself and was found dead in their garage on April 7. 
 
Ringer's body was found in a remote wooded area of Hatfield on Tuesday evening and removed the next day.
 
Dr. Kathleen Crowley, a forensic odonatologist at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Boston, made a positive identification from Ringer's dental records. Crowley was assisted by Dr. James Pokines, a forensic anthropologist, also assigned to the Boston Office of the Medical Examiner. The identification was made late Thursday afternoon. 
 
"From the beginning, we have suspected foul play and have approached this as a homicide investigation and we have considered Joanne's husband, Chad Reidy, as the sole suspect," Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless said a press conference in Northern Berkshire District Court on last year. "Reidy's apparent suicide on April 7 has not changed that view."
 
However, Laura J. Reilly, 42, of Berkeley Street, Easthampton, described as Reidy's former girlfriend, was arraigned last April on three counts of misleading investigators, an obstruction of justice, in providing erroneous information during the investigation of Ringer's disappearance.  
 
Ringer's car had been found less than a half-mile from Reilly's address. 
 
Capeless unexpectedly announced his retirement on Thursday morning, paving the way for one of his assistant DAs to be appointed to his post so he could run as an incumbent in November's election. The timing of the announcement, so close to the discovery of the body, had a number of Springfield area media openly speculating that it would be focused on the Ringer case. 
 
On Thursday, Capeless said the timing was a "coincidence" and that his retirement announcement had been planned a long time in advance and that the Ringer family had been told privately what it was regarding. 
 
Ringer's body was positively identified late Thursday afternoon and the media notified shortly before 8 p.m.
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