NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are investigating a fatal accident that occurred at 7 a.m. on Friday morning on West Main Street.
A local woman was killed when she apparently lost control of her Chrysler minivan and crashed into the guard rail, then sheared off a utility pole. The van hit a second pole and came to rest facing north not far from the entrance of Hillside Cemetery.
The name of the driver is being withheld pending notification of kin. She was the only occupant in the vehicle.
The victim has been identified as Deborah Pierce, 56, of Cleveland Avenue.
"She was heading west at a high rate of speed when she lost control," said Police Director Michael Cozzaglio. "Speed was a factor, absolutely, a high rate of speed."
The van's engine was resting next to the second utility; the driver was ejected and found about 10 feet away.
The highway was closed since the accident and traffic has been rerouted over Protection Avenue and Roberts Drive on the west side and Brown Street on the east.
The state police accident reconstruction unit was at the scene along with North Adams Police and Fire, and North Adams Ambulance Service. At the time of posting, the wreck was being cleared by Dean's Quality Auto but the road was going to be closed for awhile longer for National Grid to replace the pole.
Fire Damages Student Apartment Near MCLA
Staff Reports On: 08:03PM / Sunday February 16, 2014
Fire Director Stephen Meranti investigates a second-floor fire at the Boardman Block.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters made quick work Sunday of a fire in a second-floor bedroom in the Boardman Block.
"When we arrived we found a fire in one of the rooms and it was contained to one room," said Fire Director Stephen Meranti. "At this point, it's under investigation."
The block-long apartment building along Montana Street is regularly occupied by students attending Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
The Fire Department responded to the call at about 4:30 p.m. The fire was contained by 5 p.m. but Montana Street was closed off for nearly two hours as the scene was investigated.
Meranti said at least two people were evacuating the affected apartment when firefighters arrived.
"The police evacuated the whole building and sent them over to [MCLA] dining hall, I believe, and once we checked all the apartments for carbon monoxide we allowed them back in," he said.
Arrangements were made by building's owner for the occupants of the fire-damaged apartment.
The fire appeared to be in unit 45 in the back of the building. Firefighters tossed a burnt office chair out the window to clear the area and a hose was still streaming water out onto the back roof shortly after 5 p.m.
The state fire marshal was called in to investigate the cause.
Firefighters Contain Blaze at North Adams Church
By Tammy Daniels On: 08:51PM / Saturday February 01, 2014
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."
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
Staff Reports On: 03:41PM / Tuesday January 07, 2014
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.