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North Adams Residents Frustrated by Silence on Homicide
By Tammy Daniels On: 07:59PM / Thursday September 19, 2013
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Mayor Richard Alcombright, at right at the scene of the crime on Wednesday, said he's been limited in giving out information so as not to jeopardize the investigation.

Update at 11:10 a.m., Sept. 20, 2013: Police are confirming that Depaoli's 2005 Ford Taurus was located in Bennington, Vt. According to the district attorney's office:

"The vehicle was seized Thursday night and was brought back to Berkshire County.  Investigators and Crime Scene Techs will be processing the car for possible evidence in connection with the death of Depaoli."


Posted at 7:59 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2013: WTEN & WNYT are reporting Bennington (Vt.) Police and Berkshire County deputies have arrested someone wanted for questioning in the homicide of Ellen Depaoli and have located her car.

The spokesman for the DA's office told us shortly before 7 p.m. he only knew someone had been arrested as a fugitive from justice on a Massachusetts probation violation. Minutes before, District Attorney David Capeless said the investigation was still open.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An autopsy has confirmed that the death of 84-year-old Ellen Depaoli was a homicide, but officials are witholding the circumstances of her death. Her death is being described as "an isolated incident."

Depaoli's body was found Tuesday night at her home and taken to the chief medical examiner's office in Boston. The autopsy was performed Thursday by Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Anna McDonald.

"This is a very active, ongoing police investigation. Anytime one or our citizens, particularly one of our seniors, is killed, there is cause for concern along with grief," said District Attorney David Capeless in a statement. "However, based upon the information that investigators have developed, we consider this to be an isolated incident and North Adams residents should not be unduly alarmed."

A number of North Adams residents, however, have been alarmed by the slow pace of information being dissiminated to the community and have made their frustration known on Mayor Richard Alcombright's Facebook page and other social media.

A woman who lives on Walker Street wondered on Wednesday why she got a CodeRed message through the city's alert system about the annual downtown block party but not about a slaying just down the street from her home. Others speculated on why they were told there was no "imminent" danger, yet schools in the city initiated security procedures.

"If there is not concern why were the schools locked down. Walker Street has a lot of elderly people and they were not assured very early on in this," wrote one resident on the mayor's wall. "What don't they understand about social media, and immediate alerts????" wrote one of our readers.

Alcombright said he understood the frustrations but was limited in what he could say because of the ongoing investigation.

"I think that folks need to know that I, like all others in a situation like this, follow a chain of command in these situations and when told by the DA and State Police to not communicate ... then I do not communicate," he said in response to questions about the communications with the public.

The CodeRed system — which can be used to send recorded messages or texts to residents who sign up for the free service — was not used because state police and the district attorney's office had instructed him not to release any information.

"To release what I knew would have certainly compromised the work that they were doing which is first and foremost," he wrote. "To release something vague would have, in my opinion, only further fueled the rumor mill and created additional angst."

Alcombright said he has been informed as necessary on the investigation but is not privy to all the details. He had also met with Depaoli's family on Wednesday. The investigation falls under the jurisdiction of public safety officials, he said, describing himself as "part of a team."

"We have to protect the integrity of these processes so we can assure a result," he said Thursday evening.  "If I thought for one minute that anyone was in danger, our schools were in danger, I would communicate that in a heartbeat."

The mayor said his focus had been getting assurances in early morning hours Wednesday that it would be safe to send children to school, which was done with some security restrictions. The "lockout" kept the children inside and any visitors outside.
 
"Public Safety is very important to me and my administration and if for one moment I thought there were any immediate threats out there — you, the entire media, CodeRed, my FB and whatever would have known," he wrote.

When a Facebook post or tweet can reach hundreds, if not thousands, instantly, the ability to keep information — not to mention speculation — at a minimum is difficult to say the least. Especially when there are helicopters overhead and an unknown person or persons possibly on the run (or not).

Pressed Thursday evening about the lack of information being released, Capeless would only respond "it's an open investigation."

The mayor's posts on Facebook have tried to address some of the frustration, and his page has been used to post press releases directly from the district attorney's office. However, Alcombright does plan to review the communications process with his public safety officials and the district attorney's office.

"This was the first 'go around' with this sort of thing for me and I played it completely by the DA's book," he said. "But I will review a procedure for better communication."

More importantly, the mayor said, "we have to let the authorities do what they do to catch the bad guys.

"We owe it to Mrs. Depaoli, we owe it to her family."
 



     
Police Searching for Car Owned by North Adams Victim
Staff Reports On: 09:07AM / Thursday September 19, 2013
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An investigator checks for fingerprints on a pickup at the scene. Police are looking for a blue Ford Taurus that is missing from the property.

Update at 11:10 a.m., Sept. 20, 2013: Police are confirming that Depaoli's 2005 Ford Taurus was located in Bennington, Vt. According to the district attorney's office:

"The vehicle was seized Thursday night and was brought back to Berkshire County.  Investigators and Crime Scene Techs will be processing the car for possible evidence in connection with the death of Depaoli."

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are searching for a car owned by the late Ellen Depaoli, whose body was found Tuesday night in her home.

A blue 2005 Ford Taurus with license plate 88ZA27 that was registered to Depaoli is missing from her residence. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the car is asked to call the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4944.

No information was given about who may have taken the car or if its location is related to a suspect in the homicide. Police had been on the lookout for the Taurus since Tuesday night, according to scanner reports.

The investigation into Depaoli's death is being coordinated through the district attorney's office and very little information is being made public about the crime.

Depaoli, 84, was found by police after a call reporting a death at her residence. Police have not revealed who made the call and there is no information on the police log other than officers and ambulances responded to the scene.

An army of investigators from state and local law enforcement descended on the scene at 409 Walker St. on Wednesday, shutting off the upper section of the residential road until early evening. Depaoli's body has been taken to the chief medical examiner's office in Boston.

A gray 4x4 extend cab pickup was parked in the driveway of the home in front of what appeared to be a single-car garage. The truck was searched and checked for fingerprints later in the afternoon as crime scene investigators moved their examination of the scene outside the single-family home.

Investigators also took all-terrain vehicles to check the trails in the wooded region behind the house that lead to Clarksburg and Vermont.

Depaoli, a longtime supervisor of the Drury High School cafeteria, was reportedly living in the home with a son. Her husband died in 1999.



     
North Adams Woman's Death Ruled Homicide
Staff Reports On: 04:40PM / Wednesday September 18, 2013
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Police investigators were at the scene of a homicide on Walker Street most of the day Wednesday.

Updated 8:57 a.m., Sept. 19, 2013, with information from latest district attorney release. Rewrite throughout. Original story posted at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are treating the death of an 84-year-old North Adams woman as a homicide and are now searching for her car.

Police received a 911 call at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday reporting a death at 409 Walker St., according to a statement form the district attorney's office.

Officers arrived on the scene to find the deceased, Ellen Depaoli.

On Thursday morning, the district attorney's office released a third statement that states a blue 2005 Ford Taurus, Massachusetts registration 88ZA27, that was registed to Depaoli is missing from her residence. Police are asking anyone who knows the whereabouts of her car to contact the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4944.

The statement does not indicate the circumstance surrounding Depaoli's death other to say it is "under investigation at this time."

A second statement at 2:13 p.m. on Wednesday from the district attorney states: "Investigators expect an autopsy, to determine the exact cause of death, to be conducted tomorrow at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Boston."

Police have been tight-lipped about the  incident.

North Adams Police and Ambulance arrived at 409 Walker at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, state police, North Adams Police and Mayor Richard Alcombright were all at the scene, which is near the Clarksburg border.

A vehicle with the chief medical examiner's logo arrived about 12:30 p.m., along with an all-terrain vehicle from the Fire Department. A second ATV arrived shortly after. Both ATVs were driven down by the nearby high tension wires where trails open up north toward Clarksburg and Vermont.

Police declined to comment last night or this morning on what had happened and there was no information on the police log other than officers and the ambulance responded to the home. All questions about the incident are being referred to the district attorney's office.

"I don't want to talk out of turn, this is being handled and communicated through the district attorney's office," said Mayor Richard Alcombright when pressed by media at the scene. He refused to comment on any particulars, including whether there was even a crime committed. "I am not going to comment," he said, referring all communications to the district attorney's office.

He did say officials felt comfortable opening the schools this morning, but declined to say if there was a suspect either in custody or on the run.  

"We did not think there was anything for folks to worry about," he said.

In response to rumors of a perpetrator on the run, the mayor posted on his Facebook page this morning that "there is no imminent threat at this time. If there was, I would communicate that immediately."

The North Adams Schools were in lockout mode during the day. According to a statement on the school department's website: "All North Adams schools are currently enacting heightened security measures as a precaution in light of the tragic death of a local woman last night and the active police response."

None of the schools "are in imminent danger," it continues, however, students were kept inside, exteriors doors were locked and visitors were not allowed in.

Police presence on Walker Street was heavy overnight, with a number of vehicles there in the early morning hours. Attempts to approach the house shortly after midnight were rebuffed. Crime scene tape was stretched across the front yard.

Police had blocked off the street to through-traffic by 10 a.m. Wednesday, diverting traffic across Daniels Road and turning it back below the home.

The single-family home is in a lightly developed residential area. The house was owned by Olympio and Ellen Dickinson Depaoli, according to documents on file in the Registry of Deeds. Olympio Depaoli died in 1999. The couple appeared to have lived in the house since at least 1950; in later years, a son had been reportedly living with her.

Depaoli had run the Drury High School cafeteria for many years.

"She was a wonderful person," said Mary Haley Hewitt, who had worked under Depaoli for 15 years. "She was good to me, she was good to all of us who worked for her. She was just a nice lady."

This is the first murder in the city since the deaths of Julie Shade, 22,  and Daniel Walters, 19, in separate incidents in 2008.

The investigation is being conducted by the North Adams Police Department, state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office, officers from the Pittsfield Police Department and deputies from the Berkshire County sheriff's department, and members of the Berkshire County Law Enforcement Task Force.

This article will be frequently updated as we receive more information.

Left, Clarksburg Police blocked access to the upper section of Walker Street; right, a busy scene outside the house earlier Wednesday morning.

 

 



     
North Adams Police Arrest Suspected Taxi Robber
Staff Reports On: 12:01PM / Thursday September 12, 2013
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police have apprehended the suspect in an attempted robbery that occurred on Monday night.

Berthony Jean-Baptiste, 21, of Harrison Avenue in Boston is facing charges of armed robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, to wit a knife, and larceny more than $250.

Jean-Baptiste allegedly took a Yellow Cab from Hartford, Conn., to Brayton Hill Terrace on Monday, then attempted to rob the taxi driver at knifepoint. The robber made off with the driver's phone but no money. The driver sustained minor injuries that did not require medical attention.

Police received the robbery report at about 8:55 p.m. on Monday and, assisted by troopers working the Community Action Team, responded to the scene and instituted an extensive search that included a state police helicopter. The suspect, however, was able to elude searchers.

Since then, North Adams officers followed up on tips and leads generated by a CodeRed message sent to residents throughout North Adams. The officers also received the assistance from the Greater Hartford Transit District, Amtrak Security and the Yellow Cab Com.

A lead sent police back to Brayton Hill at about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, where they made contact with a man matching the description of a the robber — reportedly a black man in his 20s with a Jamaican accent and speech impediment.

The officers were able to confirm multiple matching descriptors and developed probable cause for the arrest of Jean-Baptiste, according to Lt. David Sacco.

Jean-Baptiste was transported to the North Adams Police Department, where he was booked and ordered that he be held on $50,000 cash bail or $500,000 surety by the clerk magistrate of the Northern Berkshire District Court. An arrest warrant was also located for Jean-Baptiste from the Boston District Court. Jean-Baptiste was being arraigned in Northern Berkshire District on Thursday.

The name Berthony Jean-Baptiste, with comparable ages, appears in several police logs and crime reports out of Brookline, Somerville and Watertown for a number of larceny, assualt and battery and trespassing charges. It was not clear if man arrested in North Adams is the same person.

"This was a great team effort by the North Adams Police and the state police to take this suspect into custody," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "Our CodeRed system proved helpful in the resulting leads furnished by residents that led to the arrest. Our Public Safety officials and officers maintain a very high level of commitment to the safety of our residents."


 

North Adams Police Seeking Robbery Suspect
Original post on Sept. 10, 2013; 10:59 a.m.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are seeking a suspect in an alleged armed robbery that occurred about 8:55 p.m. on Monday night at Brayton Hill Terrace.

The suspect, described as an African-American man about 27 years old with a Jamaican accent and a severe speech impediment, reportedly picked up a cab in Hartford, Conn., and asked the driver to take him North Adams.

Upon arriving at Brayton Hill, the Yellow Cab driver told police his fare brandished a knife and threatened him, ordering him to hand over any money he had. The driver was able to stop the robbery and the suspect fled the scene.

The robber didn't get any money but he did make off with the driver's cell phone. The taxi driver also received minor injuries to his hand from the knife but they did not require medical attention.

Police searched the area for the subject for several hours Monday night with assistance from detectives, the state police Community Action Team and the Williamstown Police Department K-9. Also assisting were a state police Air Wing and Crime Scene Services, which had been in the area.

The suspect reportedly has been living in North Adams for only a few weeks and is unfamiliar with the area. In addition to his accent, he is described as standing 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9, with a skinny build and wearing a "skull cap," baseball hat, jeans and a white T-shirt.

The investigation remains open and anyone with information should contact the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4944.



     
North Adams Motor-Vehicle Accident Claims Life
Staff Reports On: 11:24AM / Wednesday August 28, 2013
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One person was killed and another injured in motor vehicle accident early Wednesday morning.

Updated at 2:25 p.m., Aug. 28, 2013

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — One person was killed and another injured in a motor-vehicle accident early Wednesday morning.

Erica Rock, 31, the passenger in the vehicle, died later Wednesday morning at Berkshire Medical Center from injuries received in the accident.

Her father, Kenneth Rock, 58, of North Adams, the driver, was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital.

Police on Wednesday were not releasing any information on the identities of those involved other than to say a man and a woman were in the sport utility vehicle at the time of the accident.

The accident is still under investigation by North Adams and state police.

"The vehicle was headed eastbound when it hit the pole on the eastbound side and sheared it off; it then impacted with the cement wall and crossed the road and impacted with another pole," said Sgt. James Burdick.

Erica Rock was ejected from the vehicle; neither Rock was wearing a seat belt.

The accident was reported at 1:15 a.m. on Wednesday as a single car into a utility pole with lines down. Two ambulances were called to the scene: one victim was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital and the other to Berkshire Medical Center.

The accident occurred between Richview and Goodrich streets on Route 2.

The street was closed for hours for the state police team's reconstruction and for National Grid to repair the lines; the utility company was still completing repairs at about 9 a.m. Burdick did not believe anyone lost power during the event.

The vehicle, a late-model 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, was towed by Mohawk Towing.



     
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