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North Adams Firefighters Save Home From Garage Fire

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A chicken incubator is suspected as the cause of a devastating fire that destroyed a two-car garage and threatened a nearby home on Monday evening. 
 
Firefighters were able to save the home at 1664 South Church St. owned by Paul and Diane Lesure but the garage is a total loss.
 
Acting Fire Lt. Matt Labonte said the garage was fully involved upon arrival. "So we made our intentions on cooling down the house," he said. "The house was on fire on the back side so we made our hose lines to the house so nothing got inside." 
 
The Dutch-style garage had a full second story that had caved in within a half hour or so of the first calls at around 6 p.m. No one was home at the time and the owners came home to find the blaze already going. They were able to get their dog out of the house. 
 
"It first came in as a garage fire in back of McCann School. We got a few calls confirming it on the way here," Fire Director Stephen Meranti said, adding that the focus was on limiting fire damage to the single-family home and then containing the garage blaze. 
 
"He had a lot of equipment in there, motorcycles in there, a lot of stuff," he said. "We had guys working in both directions to keep it from spreading."
 
The blaze melted the vinyl siding off the north side and the back of the home and charring could be seen in the rear exterior. The ground was burned around the garage, which was separate from the house and set slightly back on the north side. All that was left of the garage was a pile of twisted metal and debris. 
 
Loud pops could be heard as canisters of fuel or other materials exploded in the conflagration. The house is on the hillside just north of the Adams line but black smoke could be seen billowing from the blaze from the downtown. 
 
Meranti said the cause has yet to be officially determined but he was leaning toward the incubator lamp because there was no other heat source in the building. It contained a woodstove but that hadn't been used in a while. 
 
The Fire Department ran into some trouble with a hydrant located directly in front of the property. Meranti said there was a pressure issue and the Water Department was looking into it. 
 
Firefighters were planning on a fire watch through the night in case the pile or house reignited. The power was shut off and the family was planning to go elsewhere for the night. North Adams Ambulance Service, Wire & Alarm, National Grid, and police also responded to the scene.
 
There was also a problem with spectators stopping on the road to watch the fire. The road is narrow with little room to pull off and the property was on a hill making access difficult. There was a lot of traffic at the time and those parking along the side made it difficult for the fire trucks to get in. Police shut down that section of road from Wheel Estates to the city line and began turning vehicles around. 
 
"There were a lot of spectators here. We would really appreciate it if they would stay clear of the scene," Meranti said. "We had issues getting apparatus in because there were so many people parking to watch on both sides of the road. ... We need people to stay clear just keep on going."
     

North Adams Businesses Warned of Multiple Break-Ins

Staff Reports

This image of the suspect was taken off a security camera Friday morning. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are warning Main Street business owners about a series of break-ins that have occurred over the past few days. 
 
Moulton's Spectacle Shoppe was broken into sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning through the Main Street door with the burglar making off with cash and checks. About 1 a.m. on Friday, an individual broke into the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Berkshire Photography & Printing in the Berkshire Plaza. Nothing was taken from the RMV but clothing was stolen from Berkshire Printing. 
 
The suspect, described as a tall, thin black man, was wearing a parka with a furred-edge hood when captured by security cameras on Friday morning. He is believed to be using a pry bar to open doors and appears to have attempted entry into other locations. 
 
The incidents are still under investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact North Adams Police at 413-662-3105, Ext. 4210. 
 
In the meantime, police are recommending downtown business owners secure all their doors; make sure surveillance systems are active and time/date stamps are correct and active; lock up valuables; alert police and neighboring businesses if you see something out of the ordinary, such as doors being tampered with.
     

North Adams Police Investigating Shot That Broke Restaurant Window

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
Update, Friday at 5:45 p.m.: Update: Police are continuing the investigation into the firing of a bullet that smashed through a window at Public Eat & Drink restaurant on Thursday afternoon. The bullet traveled through the eatery, which was busy with patrons at the time, and struck a woman eating her lunch. The woman was not seriously injured and did not require treatment.
 
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio wrote in an email on Friday that the shot may have been aimed at a traffic light at the intersection of Holden, Center and Route 2.
 
"It would seem as though someone may have shot at the traffic light, which is in front of the restaurant window," he said. "The shot missed the traffic light and went through the window."
 
However, the shot is still considered to be a random incident that was not directed at any individual or at the restaurant or building. 
 
Anyone with information about the shooting, which occurred at about 2:40 p.m. on Thursday in the vicinity of the artery is asked to contact North Adams Police. The scene was processed by state police investigators from the crime scene and ballistics divisions.
 
"We want to thank the management and staff at Public restaurant for their cooperation through this investigative process," Cozzaglio said.
 
The restaurant was closed Thursday evening but reopened for regular business on Friday.
 

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are investigating a shot fired through a window at Public Eat & Drink restaurant on Thursday afternoon. 

 
No one was seriously injured in the incident that was reported about 2:46 p.m.but the restaurant was closed for the evening, according to a sign posted on the door. 
 
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said the area was being treated as a crime scene and that state police Crime Scene Services and ballistics had been called in to process the scene. 
 
The investigators will try to determine the trajectory of the bullet and where it might have originated. The bullet did graze or touch one of the customers, he said.
 
"A woman had minor injuries to her head, very minor," he said, adding that she had declined treatment. "She was just sitting down having lunch."
 
The shot came through the top of the farthest west of the three windows on the Center Street side of the corner restaurant. Police blocked off the entrance into the parking lot on that side and ran yellow tape to prevent anyone from getting near the side of the building or the public way next to it. 
 
Employees were still in the restaurant and some patrons were exiting the eatery shortly before 5 p.m. 
 
Cozzaglio said police know where the bullet entered the building, where the woman was sitting and where it ended up. What's not known is the origin of the bullet, its path inside the building and whether it might have ricocheted.
 
Police will be checking to see if there are any security cameras that might provide a clue as to what occurred. Cozzaglio said it appears, at least at this point, that it was a random shot and not intentional in regard to the restaurant. 
 
"There's nothing to lead us to believe that there's anything directly related to Public," he said.
     

Steele-Knudslien Arraigned on Murder Charge in Superior Court

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A man accused of killing his wife was arraigned Monday morning in Berkshire Superior Court on a murder charge. 
 
Mark S. Steele-Knudslien, 47, entered a plea of not guilty of one charge of murder in connection with the death of his wife, 42-year-old Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien.
 
Steele-Knudslien allegedly beat his wife with a hammer and stabbed her on the evening of Jan. 5 in their Veazie Street home in North Adams. Police say they discovered her body, wrapped up in the basement, after her husband entered the Adams Police Station hours later to report the crime.
 
Judge John Agostini ordered Steele-Knudslien continued to be held without bail at the Berkshire County House of Correction. Steele-Knudslien had previously entered a not-guilty plea in Northern Berkshire District Court on Jan. 8.
 
The couple had apparently lived in Adams and, before that, the Springfield area before moving to North Adams last March. They were married in April 2017.
 
The investigation is being conducted by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office, members of the North Adams and Adams police departments and the Massachusetts State Police Crime Scene Services Section.
     

North Adams Man Pleads Not Guilty in Murder of Wife

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A North Adams man pleaded not guilty on Monday morning in Northern Berkshire District Court of murdering his 42-year-old wife, Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien
 
Mark S. Steele-Knudslien, 47, is accused of beating and stabbing his wife to death on Friday evening in their 107 Veazie St. home. 
 
Judge Paul Vrabel ordered that he be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without the right to bail. Steele-Knudslien will be back in court for a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 7, 2018.
 
According to police reports, Mark Steele-Knudslien admitted to police that he had hit Christa numerous times  in the head with a hammer and stabbed her in the back with a large, stainless-steel kitchen knife.
 
Steele-Knudslien walked into the Adams Police Station at about 8:40 p.m. on Friday asking to speak privately with an officer. According to the report submitted by Trooper Ryan H. Dickinson of Berkshire Detective Unit, Steele-Knudslien told Officer Michael Wandrei that "he had done something very bad and that he should be put in handcuffs."
 
Steele-Knudslien was not cuffed at that point but was read his Miranda Rights, which he acknowledged, and then told the officers he had killed his wife. North Adams Police were alerted and entered the Veazie Street home, finding Christa's body wrapped in tarp and bedding and tied up in the basement.
 
The medical examiner's report found blunt force trauma and injuries consistent with defensive wounds; the knife stabbed into her back punctured her heart. Cause of death was blood loss. 
 
During a recorded 29-minute interview, Steele-Knudslien told police that he and his wife had gotten into an argument the day before and that she often belittled him and called him names. On Friday, he "snapped," according to the report, and attacked her at about 5 p.m. on Friday in their living room. 
 
After killing her, according to the report, he tried to clean up, took a shower and went out to buy alcohol. It's not clear why he approached the Adams Police but neither of the Steele-Knudsliens appear to be local to the area and they had lived more recently in Adams.
 
Christa Steele-Knudslien, nee Steele, is originally from Rochester, Minn., according to her Facebook page. She apparently lived in Western Massachusetts for some time, particularly the Springfield area, before moving to the Berkshires. One of her two Facebook pages shows images and posts about fixing up the Veazie Street house that she purchased in March 2017 under the name Christa L. Torres.
 
She also was a founder and chief executive officer of the Miss Trans New England Pageant, apparently as Christa Hilfers, and a founder of New England Trans Pride.
 
The Steele-Knudsliens were married April 15, 2017. In a Facebook post a few months before that, Christa had written that "My husband and I are going to try to work things out." 
 
This is the first murder in the city since 2013.
 
Friends of Christa have started a GoFundMe to help defray funeral costs.
 

Steele-Knudslien Murder Case by iBerkshires.com on Scribd

     
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