Firefighters Contain Blaze at North Adams Church
|The ladder truck from the Adams Fire Department is used to view the roof of the parish hall at All Saints Episcopal Church on Saturday.|
Update: The third floor of the parish hall will have to be gutted and restored; water damage also affected the second floor and down into the kitchen, requiring repairs of those areas.
Remediation work on the parish hall began on Monday.
The religious education classes and the nursery on the third floor will be moved into the church for the time being.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters contained a top-floor blaze at All Saints Episcopal Church early Saturday evening.
A box alarm in the building alerted emergency crews at 7:51 p.m. to the fire on the third floor of the attached parish hall.
"When the guys got on scene we had firing showing from the third-floor window," said Fire Director Stephen Meranti. "We immediately called for an all-call to get all firefighters and officers in."
The blaze was under control within a half-hour but it was a couple hours before firefighters began to wrap up the scene.
The cause of the fire has not been determined and the department was keeping a fire watch through the night.
Services and Meals on Wheels deliveries for Sunday have been canceled.
Meranti said Lt. Mike Goodson supervised the response as firefighters stretched the line to the third floor and found the fire in a room off the center hallway.
"The knocked down the fire fairly quickly and it was contained to that one room," he said.
Witnesses said they could see smoke and some flames coming from the parish hall on the west side of the roof. Meranti said there was concern the fire had gotten into the attic but the flames were actually coming out through the small third-floor window.
The Adams Fire Department was called for the use of its ladder truck, just in case. "It's a big building," said Meranti.
The ladder truck was extended to survey the roof of the parish hall. Five firetrucks in all, plus the city's wire and alarm division, police and North Adams Ambulance Service responded to the scene. Summer Street was closed from Ashland Street to the former Kmart parking lot.
No one was in the parish hall at the time of the fire but a meeting being held in the church's basement was cut short. Services had been held in the church a few hours earlier.
Members of the parish council said the third floor contained the nursery and educational classes, which had been renovated in recent years. The rooms had also been painted and new carpet laid down.
The second floor holds the church's library and programming space.
Meranti said there was "extensive damage to the third floor, we have water damage to the building and damage to the fire alarm system."
The church itself, the former St. John's, was not damaged but the building cannot operate without the alarms, said Meranti.
Members of the parish leadership were allowed in to assess the damage, their observations being that it was bad, "but it could be worse."
North Adams Regional Reopens After Bomb Scare
|The North Adams Regional Hospital campus was closed for nearly two hours after a bomb scare on Monday.|
Update: Police have charged James Lafleur, 55, of Langlois Avenue, Williamstown, with calling in the threat. Lafleur pleaded not guilty Tuesday and was ordered to seek help at the Brien Center. Williamstown Police arrested him at his home on Monday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — North Adams Regional Hospital was forced to divert patients for nearly 90 minutes on Monday afternoon after a bomb threat was called in.
Police say they have a suspect and that charges will be filed.
Police Sgt. James Burdick said the hospital received the threat at 1:01 p.m.
"It was taken very seriously by the hospital staff here and taken seriously by the police department, the fire department, and ambulance," said Burdick minutes after the campus reopened at 2:40 p.m. "We set up a command center as we should."
Hospital spokesman Paul Hopkins said earlier that the building and grounds were being checked by emergency personnel.
"The investigation is under way and we don't at this time believe the threat to be credible," Hopkins stated in a press release as the hospital reopened. "We do, however, believe all threats to be very serious."
The hospital instituted its own protocols, including notifying police and staff, and restricting access to the building by patients and visitors. An individual who had an appointment with the imaging department said he was turned away after a police officer told him no was being allowed onto the grounds.
The hospital itself was not evacuated and no one was allowed to immediately leave. Cars began to leave the campus shortly before the restrictions were lifted
"The hospital went by their protocols, we all worked together on it and it was resolved in less than two hours," said Fire Director Stephen Meranti. The director said a similar threat had occurred several years ago.
"Obviously, it tied up considerable manpower and resources," Burdick, who added that police have "developed a possible suspect."
An individual in Williamstown who was interviewed by Williamstown Police, according to scanner reports, admitted to calling the hospital in the morning but denied making a call in the afternoon or making any threats to the hospital. Police did not identify the suspect nor is it clear if it is the person police interviewed.
"There's numerous charges that could possibly be brought forward," said Burdick. "We'll have to wait for the investigation and consult with the district attorney's office on possible charges."
North Adams Couple Charged With Marijuana Distribution
|Marijuana and cultivation paraphernalia police say the confiscated from a North Adams home.|
Update on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 3 p.m.: The identification of a third member of the family was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.
"Misidentification by the mother at the scene triggered those charges," said Det. John LeClair. "Now the charges will be amended and brought against the other adult son."
The individual's name will not be released until his identity is confirmed in court documents.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A former high school teacher and the owner of local toy store are facing charges related to growing and selling marijuana after police confiscated nearly $16,000 worth of cultivated weed and 14 plants.
Whitney Suters, 46, and Monique Suters, 44, and a third person to believed to be their son, have been charged with possession with the intent to distribute a Class D substance, manufacture/cultivation of a Class D substance and conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act. Monique Suters operates Persnickety Toys in North Adams.
Whitney Suters is also facing a charge of assault and battery on an officer.
The family was arrested after police responded a 911 hangup redirected from state police in Northampton at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 4.
Police Officers Trevor Manning and David Lemieux responded to the East Quincy Street home where they said Monique Suters told them a water pipe had broken and was draining into the home's electrical service.
She asked that the officers attempt to find the shut off but police said when they went into the basement her husband attempted to prevent them from entering a basement room by pushing them, resulting in his arrest and the assault charge.
Whitney Suters said on Wedesday that he received an emergency call from his wife and drove home from Cheshire and entered the basement to find two police officers standing at a closed door. Firefighters were also there.
Officers reportedly encountered "a strong odor" of raw and harvested marijuana as well as other evidence of cultivation and requested detectives. A search warrant received from Northern Berkshire District Court was executed at about 6:40 a.m. on Sunday.
Police said they found two pounds of marijuana, 14-small to medium-height marijuana plants, plastic baggies and three digital scales with marijuana residue on the measuring plates in the basement and that a table was set up for the manicuring and production of marijuana for street-level sales. A small area was set up for the cultivation of marijuana with lighting systems and soil.
Officers said they located two more pounds of marijuana in six separate bags on the second floor in a closet, making a total of four pounds seized.
Police allege that Monique Suters and her son removed marijuana plants from the basement and placed them into black trash bags to avoid their detection and stashed the two pounds of marijuana in the upstairs closet to hide it.
The value of the marijuana seized is $4,000 a pound, said police.
Whitney Suters posted on his Facebook page on Monday that he was preparing for a roller coaster ride.
"I hope my lessons have taught me well enough to keep up the faith and the fight; peace and love to all, the calm before the storm is fading fast. Talk with you all tomorrow if your [sic] still my friend."
The former Drury Spanish teacher may find more support than he thinks. Nearly 300 comments have been posted on the Police Department's Facebook report, many decrying the arrests as a waste of taxpayer money and as "destroying the lives of people."
"We're losing good people and loved ones everyday to herione [sic] and pills but you wanna worry about some stoners," wrote commenter John Vincent Toromino.
Massachusetts, both times by ballot initiatives, has decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana and opened the door to medical marijuana dispensaries. Colorado and Washington have legalized (and regulated and taxed) the use of marijuana. A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans think it should be legalized.
But even as sentiments are changing toward recreational and medicinal use of marijuana, it remains an illegal substance in most states and at the federal level.
"As a LAW Enforcement agency, we do not get to pick and choose which laws we wish to enforce and which we do not," the Police Department posted in response to the torrent of criticism.
Correction: The Persnickety Toys in Pittsfield is no longer associated with the Suters. iBerkshires regrets the error.
North Adams Police Urge Caution When Driving
|A motorist collided with the back of a flatbed on Church Street, one of a half-dozen accidents on Tuesday afternoon.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The light snow that fell over the city on Tuesday afternoon resulted in a half-dozen motor vehicle accidents in less than an hour, according to police.
Within minutes, officers and firefighters responded to a car in ditch off West Shaft Road near the Zavattaro Athletic Complex in which an occupant in the car needed help in getting out, a single-car accident by Brown Street, a car into a flatbed truck on Church Street near the Berkshire Tower dormitories and a two-vehicle collision near Walmart.
Police used their Facebook page to remind motorists to drive carefully.
"As the winter progresses, allow yourselves a little bit of extra time to get where you are going. Take a look at your tires and if they are getting low on tread depth, don't risk driving in the snow. It's just not worth it. The amount of money spent on damage to your vehicle, or injuries sustained as a result of an accident, will far surpass what it would cost to get new tires. Have a good day everyone!"
North Adams Man Arrested in Scooter Theft, Multiple Warrants
|Patrick Gaffey, 45, and Debra Gaffey, 41, of North Adams were arrested in Hartford, Conn., on Wednesday.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A North Adams man wanted in the robbery of a local woman's scooter two months ago, among numerous other charges, was arrested Wednesday in Hartford, Conn.
Patrick Gaffey, 45, and his wife, Debra Gaffey, 41, both were taken into custody at the behest of the North Adams Police Department after receiving information that they may do harm to themselves or their autistic son.
Patrick Gaffey was arrested by the Hartford Police Department as a fugitive from justice based on an active warrant in Massachusetts. Both were also charged with possession of narcotics after police said they found more than 100 bags of heroin in their minivan and possession of narcotics within 1,500 feet of a school. They are also facing third-degree larceny for allegedly stealing the minivan they were driving.
Their son was transported to Hartford Hospital for evaluation and then released to the care of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
Hartford Police apprehended the pair at about 2 p.m. on Wednesday. North Adams and state police detectives and state police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section relayed the general area where they were believed to be and Hartford Police picked them up minutes later.
Patrick Gaffey has multiple arrest warrants in Massachusetts for which he will be brought to back to face once waiving extradition; if not, a governor's warrant will be requested.
Gaffey is wanted by North Adams, Holyoke and Clarksburg police departments and state police for nine arrest warrants.
Gaffey and Jesse Sprague, 31, of Cliff Street, were also arrested in a purse snatching in October at Ingleside Mall in Holyoke.
In September, police began an investigation into the theft of more than $50,000 worth of collectable toy trains, toys and other collectables from a storage unit in North Adams. Detectives were able to locate that some of the items were being sold on eBay by a man located in Ludlow. With the assistance of Ludlow Police detectives, a North Adams detective working undercover purchased multiple toy train accessories from the man in Ludlow.
Oct. 12, 2013, North Adams and Ludlow detectives with the assistance of the Adams, Lenox, Great Barrington and Wilbraham police departments executed a search warrant for the stolen collectables and recovered approximately $35,000 worth.
Gaffey is also charged with the following offenses:
Larceny more than $250, scrap metal in March 2013; six counts of larceny by check less than $250 and three counts of uttering a false check in May 2013; possession of heroin from a motor vehicle stop in August 2013; and four counts of uttering a false check and three counts of forgery for allegedly stealing a checkbook in November 2013.
He and another as-yet unnamed man are also charged with larceny more than $250 related to the scooter theft in September. Police were investigating the theft of Suzanne Williams' scooter. Williams, always accompanied by her doll, Suzy, is well known around the city and community members have been raising funds to replace her scooter.
Regarding the collectibles theft: Larceny more than $250, breaking and entering in the daytime with the intent to commit a felony and malicious destruction of property more than $250. Warrants issued by Northern Berkshire District Court.
Larceny more than $250 in the theft of a motorcycle in August 2013
Unarmed robbery of a person 65 years old or older in relation to the purse snatching from a 73-year-old woman in October (with Jesse Sprague).
Possession of burglarious tools, from an investigation in October 2013.
The North Adams Police Department continues to investigate other similar related crimes for which Gaffey is a person of interest. With the assistance of the Williamstown Police Department, detectives are attempting to locate the owner of 1960s-era scooter that has been stolen from the Northwest Hill area of Williamstown or possibly in Pownal, Vt., in September or October 2013. If anyone has information concerning the scooter they are asked to call the North Adams or Williamstown police departments.