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Stolen Property Being Returned to Owners

Staff Reports

LENOX, Mass. — The items held as evidence in the case against burglary kingpin Stefan Veremko are being released to their owners.

The Lenox Police Department has been holding hundreds of items seized in November 2009 from Veremko's home, vehicle and areas where he had discarded the property. Veremko's monthslong spree across three states ended when an off-duty officer spotted him fleeing a building - with a pillowcase. 

Multiple police agencies were investigating the break-ins, which stretched from Southern Vermont to South County. As a result, Veremko and accomplice Tara Malloy were arrested. The recent conclusion of the case convicting Veremko and giving him five- to seven-year state prison sentence allows police the opportunity to return the seized evidence to the many victims involved with this case, said Chief Stephen E. O'Brien.

Many people came to the Lenox Town Hall on Nov. 19, 2009, to view the vast array of items. Some were able to identify items that indeed belonged to them. While conducting this process, during the exit interview, these victims were asked to provide a phone number at which they could be reached at the conclusion of the case.

Within the next several days, the victims who identified property will be receiving a call from the Lenox Police to arrange for the release of their property. All of the property that was identified will be returned to its rightful owner. For victims from the states of Vermont and New York, their property will be released to the police agency having jurisdiction over the crime. The out-of-state agency will make a determination if that property may be released or if it will remain held pending future criminal action against Veremko and Malloy in their states.

"We are asking for everyone's patience as we attempt to relinquish property in an orderly fashion to be certain that each and every victim recoups their loss," said O'Brien. "We also thank everyone involved for their patience as this case made its way through the criminal court system."

Tags: Veremko, burglary, break-ins      

Icy Conditions Cause Multiple Crashes in Lenox

Nichole Dupont

LENOX, Mass. — Four motor vehicle accidents involving at least 10 cars stopped traffic on routes 7 and 20 in both the north and southbound lanes early this morning.

According to a press release issued by Police Chief Stephen O’Brien, officers from the Lenox Police Department were responding to a two-car, head-on crash that occurred around 7 a.m. when other vehicles were forced off the road because of extremely icy conditions. In addition to Lenox Police, Lenox Fire Department and state police as well as County Ambulance were called to the scene to assist.

One eyewitness, Brian Sisco of Sheffield, said he was driving through Lenox at 8 a.m. on his way to work when he met up with black ice and bumper-to-bumper traffic in the north and southbound lanes.

"I was coming up through Lee on Route 20 and Lee was fine," he said. "But once Route 7 came up on the bypass that's when things got ugly. There was a road block both ways at Walker Street and they were sending people right or left. The road was definitely slick with black ice. At one point at a stop light my tires were spinning. The roads weren't sanded or salted or anything."

The first accident included what appeared to be a small light-colored pickup or sport utility vehicle with heavy front-end damage. The second vehicle was over the banking of the northbound lane. Emergency vehicles were parked along the side of the road for nearly 100 yards.

A light snow was falling over Pittsfield and South County in the early morning hours. Roadways were slushy through much of the region.

According to Sisco, traffic was backed up for at least a mile and half as police and rescue workers tried to handle one crash after another, saying there were at least three flatbeds and two tow trucks trying to clear away disabled vehicles. 

"I drove through Great Barrington at about 6:30 this morning and the roads were fine; sanded and salted. The same through Stockbridge and Lee," he said. "It did not look slippery at all. There was snow covering the roads but it just looked wet. You would think that because there are so many people who drive up Route 7 to get to work that that road would be salted as well. Pittsfield was fine, too. They had already sanded."

The road was finally opened again at 8 a.m. when it was deemed passable by police. At least eight people were transported to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield. Although none were reported to have life-threatening injuries, investigators are still compiling operator and vehicle information. Police said one accident involved eight vehicles.

Tags: motor vehicle, accident, ice, injuries      

Fire Destroys Cranwell Carriage House

Nichole Dupont


 Updated on Jan. 4, 2011:  Update: Investigators are looking several space heaters set in the void between the first and second floors of the Carriage Barn as the possible source of the blaze that destroyed the historic structure days before Christmas.

"The fire investigation is continuing, but we are focusing on three space heaters as the most probable cause," said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan in a press release.

The joint investigation with Lenox Fire Chief Daniel Clifford found the three oil-filled heaters were being used to keep pipes from freezing; at least two were connected to extension cords. According to the release, "Investigators believe either one of the space heaters or one of the extension cords connected to a heater, may have overheated and started the fire."

The entire press release can be found here in pdf format.


Update on Dec. 23, 2010, 4:25 p.m.: Follow-up calls for more information on the blaze haven't been returned by Cranwell Resort but a statement was sent stating the resort planned on rebuilding the structure. The statement follows:

A fire in the historic Carriage House at Cranwell Resort has completely destroyed the 18-guestroom building. There were no guests or employees in the building at the time. The fire broke out at approximately 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, December 22. Fire departments from 20 surrounding towns were called in help battle the blaze and they worked through the night trying to save the building. The circa 1890s building was connected to the Spa by a glass-enclosed walkway, but because it was completely isolated, no other building or operation was affected.

The Eagle posted this photo on YFrog.

The cause of the fire is under investigation according to Lew Kiesler, President and General Manager of Cranwell. He stated, "We are so grateful that no one was injured during this terrible event. We lost a gracious and historic building yesterday, but we are already making plans to rebuild."

The resort remains open for business in all areas with restaurants, the spa and facilities open to the public and house guests. Cranwell is currently in process of contacting hotel guests and making alternate arrangements for stays as necessary.

Original Post: 12-22-2010 04:37PM

LENOX, Mass. — A major structure fire destroyed the 120-year-old Carriage House on Wednesday afternoon at Cranwell Resort & Spa.

The smoke was discovered by a house inspector for the luxury resort at about 2 p.m., said General Manager Lewis M. Kiesler. "Fortunately, at this point, all the guest rooms in the Carriage House were vacant."

Kiesler was standing in the freezing temperatures calling guests to tell them their vacation plans were canceled as he watched a horde of firefighers from the surrounding towns battle the blaze. He said it was fortunate the Carriage House was at a distance from the other buildings on the sprawling estate.

The flames and smoke could be seen from the other side of Route 7 and billowed over the resort complex. The reporter at the scene said the wood-frame building looked like a tinderbox more than 45 minutes after the fire was reported.

The historic Carriage House was featured on the Cranwell website.

Lenox firefighters called in mutual aid from neighboring towns, including Lee, Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Hinsdale, Richmond and Monterey. A second call for help brought in five more departments, including Adams and Clarksburg from North County, and set the high school as a staging area for more tankers.

The Carriage House was built the same year as the mansion, which now hosts dinner parties and banquets. It was linked to the spa with a glass-enclosed walkway and boasted 18 luxury rooms on two floors. The resort also has rooms in the mansion, a set of townhouses, three cottages and the Olmsted Mansion.

Kiesler said the resort was fully booked through New Year's Eve.

Great Barrington Deputy Fire Chief Edward G. McCormick, acting as public relations officer, gave an update shortly before 5 p.m.  He said the fire apparently began in the building's attic but fire officials would not speculate as to how it might have started.

It was reported to Lenox dispatch at about 2:30; the building was fully involved when firefighters arrived at the scene.

McCormick said 20 Berkshire County fire departments and one Connecticut department sent equipment and manpower to help fight the blaze.

The building's historic architecture made it difficult contain the fire; the partial collapse of one side of the building forced firefighters out of the interior.

No has been injured but the weather conditions were raising concerns over firefighters' safety, said McCormick, because of the amount of water icing up around the scene. 

"I think we'll be here until tomorrow morning," he said, as smoked continued to billow behind him.

Cranwell Resort posted this statement on its website shortly before 6:30 pm.

Today, Cranwell suffered an unfortunate fire to the historic Carriage House. Thankfully, no one was injured but the building is a complete loss. The building is isolated so it has not affected any other property at Cranwell. Please rest assured that the entire resort is open for business and you can continue your plans to visit. For further information about your room reservation, spa appointment or dinner reservation, please call 800-272-6935.

Staff writer Andy McKeever contributed to this report.

Firefighters can be seen battling the blaze from above; right, the 18-room building collapses.

 

 


Tags: fire, inn      

Pittsfield Man Arrested in Llama Killings

Staff Reports

LENOX, Mass. — Lenox Police say they have arrested a Pittsfield man who admits to the killing of two llamas last November at River Valley Farm.

Jared Dinicola, 19, of Marian Street, Pittsfield, was arrested Thursday, July 15, and is being held in the custody of the Lenox Police in lieu $5,000 cash bail until his arraignment later this morning in Central Berkshire District Court. He is being charged with two counts of killing an animal.

He was arrested by Lenox Police Officer Gary Lagarce.

According to a message from Police Chief Stephen E. O'Brien early Friday morning:

On July 14th Officer Lagarce conducted an interview with an individual that had information that Dinicola was the shooter and other persons were present at the time of the shooting.  On the 15th Officer Lagarce conducted 3 more interviews revealing that Dinicola was indeed the shooter. Lastly, also on the 15th, Dinicola was arrested, interviewed, and admitted his involvement in the killings. It appears Dinicola shot one arrow killing both Llamas. Everyone that was interviewed consistently referenced alcohol being involved and that Dinicola was the sole participant in the death of the llamas.

The llamas, Chocolate and Prada, were found shot by bow and arrow by owner Lisa Dachinger on Sunday morning, Nov. 8, 2010, 2009, at the New Lenox Road farm.

The young llamas were part of an extended family at the farm, which now has nine llamas (known as the Bouncers) and several breeds of sheep. Dachinger manages the farm with her three children, including her daughter Jennifer Petricca, who is the livestock manager.

Rewards were posted by radio talk personality Sherman Baldwin and the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen. (Michael Jester, president of the league, wrote in The Berkshire Eagle comment section that the total amount raised by his group is $1,625.) Baldwin, who has since left the area, said the reward money collected would remain uncashed in Pittsfield until the perpetrator was found.

"We are aware of a reward which was posted at the inception of this investigation, but are not involved with the collection of funds or their disbursement and assume that it is only available upon a successful conviction," said O'Brien.

The investigation involved regular collaboration between the Lenox Police, Trooper Brian Berkel of the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit, the Pittsfield Police, and Massachusetts Environmental Police. 

Updated at 2:10 p.m.:  Lenox Police say Dinicola was arraigned in Pittsfield and had his case transferred to Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington; he is scheduled to a appear there next Friday, July 23.

We also talked to Sherman Baldwin, now hosting a radio talk show in Sarasota, Fla. At his last news conference, Baldwin had said the checks received toward the reward would remain uncashed. He'd collected about $3,600 that included money he'd donated.

But he decided he didn't want to leave any loose ends.

"I notified everybody I was destroying the checks. Someone gave me $50 cash and I spent two days tracking this person down to return it," said Baldwin. "I figured it was kind of a dead issue. I did it all in the spirit of goodness. I was shocked when John Krol contacted me about this morning."

The former TalkBerkshires host says he's not sure what to do at this point about the reward and is mulling some options.

Tags: animal abuse, reward      

Swift Storm Knocks Out Power

Staff Reports

Cranwell Resort in Lenox tweeted us this photo of a large tree that fell after the storm came through. The pic was taken by the resort's director of sales, Dawn R. Jacobsson.

 NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Several sections of the county were hit by a fast-moving storm that downed trees and power lines. At 9 p.m., Western Mass. Electric Co. was reporting some 22,000 customers out of power in Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.


The wind split this tree in Williamstown.

Nearly all of New Ashford was reported out of power and nearly half of nearby Lanesborough. The hilltowns, including Becket and Washington, weathered the storm better, with no reported outages.

National Grid reported minor, scattered outages throughout, with about 31 customers out of power on Florida Mountain.

One our readers reported traffic lights out in Pittsfield shortly after the storm moved through and Cranwell Resort sent a picture of a large tree down in its driveway. "Tree down on road on our property — Our topnotch crew is already on the scene, removing debris," the Lenox resort tweeted us. A section of a large tree in Williamstown near the Dunkin' Donuts on Main Street also came down in the storm.

"Every county in WMECo's service area is affected, with the most customers without power in the towns of Sunderland, Agawam, Ludlow, Springfield, West Springfield, Hadley and Southampton," according to a press statement from WMECo.

WMECo reminds residents to treat all wires as live and stay a minimum of 10 feet away. Even getting close to an energized wire can have deadly consequences. Call 911 or WMECo immediately.

Home generators should always be installed by a qualified electrician. Improperly installed generators can backfeed into our lines, which could be deadly to our workers.

Tags: storm, power outage      
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