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North Adams Apartment Fire Forces Families Out

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
A fire in a back unit of a Loftus Street apartment building forces five families from their homes.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Five families were forced from their homes on Sunday afternoon after the rearmost unit in a River Street apartment building caught fire.

Crystal Fitzpatrick, who had lived in the back unit with her three daughters since March, said she was at the market when her teenage daughter, Karizme, called to tell her their home was on fire.

"I had to ask someone for a ride," she said. "I got there and it was full of smoke. I dropped everything and started throwing water at the wall."

Fitzpatrick and Karizme were able to get out of the apartment with their rabbit. The two younger girls, Serenity and Destiny, were at a friend's house. Two hamsters on the first floor were rescued unharmed but much of their belongings were likely lost, including a cache of Christmas presents, according to the girl's grandmother, Eddine Fitzpatrick.

Fire Director Stephen Meranti said firefighters responded to the smoke alarm activation, which came in at about 3:13 p.m., and were informed en route that there was confirmed smokes and flames coming from the building at the corner of Loftus and River streets. All off-duty firefighters were called in.

Firefighters found a blaze on the first floor had moved up the wall into the attic area in the back unit of the two-story structure. The older balloon construction with no fire stops and little insulation helped the fire spread through the back exterior wall.

"It was a quick response and an aggressive attack," Meranti said, that contained the blaze before it could spread to adjoining apartments and close by buildings. "These guys did a great job."

Firefighters brought in hoses through the first floor and used the ladder truck to ventilate the ceiling, leaving a large hole in the roof. The adjacent apartment was also entered but was determined to be safe.

The unit received extensive water and smoke damage, although firefighters did what they could to cover the items in side.

River Street was closed between Veazie and Brown streets for several hours; North Adams Ambulance Service, the Wire & Alarm Division and health inspector were also on scene. A fire watch is in place at the building.

Crystal Fitzpatrick believed the fire may have been electrical because it was in the wall; she said she had been having problems with some of the outlets. Meranti said the cause had not yet been determined and that it was under investigation. The building is owned by Michael Deep, who also was at the scene.

Tenants gathered outside the building in the chilly temperatures, several without overcoats or proper footwear because of how quickly they had fled the building. Karizme Fitzpatrick was wrapped up on the ground in a sleeping bag with her bunny, Foo-foo, to keep warm.

"The whole thing was smoking," said Eddine Fitzpatrick, as she comforted Karizme and her mother. "She's afraid everything's gone."

Fitzpatrick said she had had the two bedrooms for the girls redone and expected that all their clothing, if not burnt, was now severely damaged. The Christmas presents stashed in the attic by the chimney were likely gone, too, she said.

Power was cut to all the apartments and tenants were expected to be helped tonight by the Red Cross. Mingling around in the chill wind, they hugged each other in commiseration and wondered what was next.

"Why do these things happen to us when we're working so hard to get ahead?" wondered one woman.

     

Two Students Arrested at Different Schools with Loaded Weapons

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A high school student and a college student were found with loaded weapons this week after each created a disturbance at their respective campuses.

On Tuesday night, a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts student was arrested at the North Adams campus after becoming belligerent during an evening class. Chris LaFrance, 25, was allegedly intoxicated when campus police pepper sprayed him; upon arresting him, police said they found a loaded handgun on his person. While reportedly licensed to carry a firearm, LaFrance is facing a number of charges related to the incident and the public school where he had been training was apprised of his arrest and terminated his participation.

Pittsfield school officials say a Taconic High School student was arrested Thursday morning for creating a disturbance and a loaded gun was found on his person.

At no point was the weapon made visible to any student or staff member at Taconic, according to officials.

The Taconic administration said it is working with the Pittsfield Police Department to further investigate the matter.  

"Principal Vosburgh and his staff followed Pittsfield Public School safety protocol to the letter. School administration and Pittsfield Police effectively took all appropriate measures to efficiently address the situation and safeguard the school community," said Mayor Daniel Bianchi in a statement. "I am confident in Dr. McCandless' leadership and the professionalism of school staff as we continue to collaborate with community partners."

McCandless, Pittsfield Public Schools superintendent, said safety protocols are in place at all schools and are practiced regularly. The school community and parents will be kept informed, he said.

"The safety and concern of our students is the highest priority. All schools in the district have safety response protocols and procedures in place. Families are encouraged to partner with the school administration regarding any information that could be of assistance to help continue to maintain a safe and secure environment," according to a press release from City Hall.

     

Delratez Sentenced to Life After Guilty Plea in North Adams Murder

Staff Reports
David Delratez at his arraignment last year after being apprehended in Bennington, Vt. Delratez was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — David A. Delratez has been sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to last year's murder of 84-year-old Ellen DePaoli in North Adams. 
 
Delratez, of North Adams, pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon to murder in the second degree and to several other charges. 
 
He was apprehended only days after the discovery of DePaoli's body in her Walker Street home on the evening of Sept. 17, 2013. 
 
Delratez, 42, who had known DePaoli for years, had initially claimed he had gone to visit her when one or more men had forced their way into her home, struck and killed her, and made him drive them away.
 
DePaoli was well-liked in the community and had been the cafeteria manager at Drury High School for many years. 
 
Delratez was found in possession of her stolen car in Bennington, Vt., and arrested on outstanding warrants by Bennington Police. He had pleaded not guilty in his initial appearances in court.  
 
On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to single counts of murder in the second degree and larceny of a motor vehicle in connection with DePaoli's murder. He also pleaded guilty to single counts of breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor and malicious destruction of property less than $250, related to an incident in Clarksburg on Sept. 13, 2013.
 
Judge John J. Agostini ordered that Delratez serve a life sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the murder charge. 
 
He was given a concurrent three to four-year state prison sentence on the larceny charge and concurrent House of Correction sentences on the other charges. 
 
However, he is eligible for parole after serving 15 years, according to the district attorney's office. 
 
The investigation was 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. 
     

State Police Traffic Stop Turns Up Bags of Heroin

State Police say the confiscated 83 bags of heroin as the result of a traffic stop on State Street in North Adams.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A North Adams woman is facing multiple drug charges after a routine police stop turned up 83 bags of heroin.

State Police arrested Cassandra McInnis, 26, at about 5:25 p.m. on Saturday.

Trooper Thomas Cusak of the Cheshire Barracks said he was on patrol on State Street when his attention was drawn to McInnis' 1999 Chevrolet sedan. As a result of a motor vehicle stop and subsequent investigation by Trooper Cusak, with the assistance of Trooper Zachary Wood, McGinnis was arrested and charged with the following:

1) Possession with Intent to Distribute Class A Narcotics (heroin)
2) Intent to distribute narcotics within a school/park zone
3) Being present where heroin is kept
4) Conspiracy to violate the narcotics law
5) Various motor vehicle violations

McInnis was scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.

     

Police Seeking Man Wanted for North Adams Assault

Editor's note: According to North Adams Police, Joshua Allen was not arrested by New York State Police on Monday. This information was given erroneously because of a "communication error." There is still a warrant out for Allen's arrest.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. —  A man wanted in connection with a machete attack in North Adams has been apprehended by New York State Police.

North Adams Police reported shortly after 4 p.m. Monday that Joshua Allen, 27, had been taken into custody after a nearly three-day search.

A warrant for Joshua Allen, 27, was issued Saturday after Allen allegedly attacked his domestic partner in the early morning hours at their Montana Street residence and fled. He was believed to be driving a gray or silver 2002 Toyota Celica with no license plates to New York State, where he reportedly had connections.

A police alert cautioned people not to approach Allen if sighted but to immediately contact police.

Allen is described as white, standing 6-feet and weighing approximately 200 pounds. Anyone with information on Allen's whereabouts is encouraged to contact the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4944 (press option 1).

He is expected to be arraigned on charges of assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a knife), strangulation, malicious destruction of property and cruelty to animals.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Police, which described the victim as a commuter student, contacted city police after learning of the off-campus incident.

The incident is under investigation by the North Adams Police Department and Berkshire County district attorney's office.

     
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