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Woman Found Not Guilty in Williamstown Hit-and-Run

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Williamstown woman was found not guilty on Wednesday of leaving the scene of a hit-and-run that has left a local woman in a coma for two years. 
 
But she and her husband were both found guilty of misleading police in the days following the incident that seriously injured Cheryl J. LeClaire, 54, of White Oaks Road in Williamstown. They were found not guilty of conspiracy to mislead. 
 
A Superior Court jury deliberated for eight hours before returning the verdicts in the cases against Sally J. Gould, 73, the driver in the incident, and her husband, John T. Gould, 71.
 
LeClaire was walking her dog on the evening of Feb. 9, 2016, along North Hoosac Road in Williamstown. A passing motorist found her lying in the road, unresponsive, at about 6:30 p.m. She was taken to Berkshire Medical Center with severe head trauma. Her dog was unharmed. 
 
Police investigators believed that LeClaire had been struck or brushed by a passing vehicle but there was little physical evidence at the scene and no witnesses. Some automotive materials led police to look for a Honda CRV with front-end damage.
 
The Goulds were arrested two weeks later and charged with misleading police in their investigation and conspiracy to mislead a police officer. Sally Gould was also charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. 
 
The charges were based on actions taken by the Goulds to repair their 2014 Honda CRV, including replacing a windshield. Defensive attorneys argued that the sport utility vehicle being parked outside during this time and John Gould's willingness to speak to police showed there was no attempt to cover anything up. However, authorities said the Goulds gave inconsistent statements and told them the damage had occurred in a parking lot collision.
 
Judge John Agostini released both Goulds on personal recognizance pending sentencing on March 26 at 2 p.m.
     

Pellet Stove Sparks Fire at Readsboro Inn

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

A firefighter uses a ladder to reach the third floor. 
READSBORO, Vt. — The historic Readsboro Inn was spared from catastrophe in the wee hours of Tuesday when a quick thinking tenant and teams of firefighters were able to snuff out a pellet stove fire on its top floor. 
 
"The fire blew through the side of the building, it ran up the roof rafters and down the other side and through the whole attic," said Fire Chief Adam Codogni.
 
The fire was seen before 2:30 a.m. when a guest went outside to have a cigarette and noticed smoke coming through top of the three-story building. A tenant grabbed an extinguisher and was able to contain the stove blaze, but the fire had worked its way behind the walls and up into the attic.
 
BJ Gamache, who has an apartment in the building, said later that it was a guest at the inn who went outside around 2 and saw the smoke, then began banging on apartment doors to wake everyone. 
 
Gamache said he called 911 and the owners, then grabbed fire extinguishers. 
 
"So I climbed out the window on the third floor onto a ladder that is attached to the building and started spraying the fire flames with the fire extinguishers from outside," he wrote on a Facebook post on the story. "I used five of them to get flames out that I could see before the Fire Department made it here. I had to keep running downstairs to grab more of them."
 
The guest remained with him to help out while Gamache battled the blaze.
 
"To be honest it all happened so fast and the only thing I was thinking was not letting Marcia [Evans] and Vince [Guest], the owners, lose their building," he said. "My place to live and my job."
 
Codogni and the first crew of firefighters arrived with minutes and the decision was made to start pulling down the interior walls to get to the fire.
 
"We were lucky to have a good crew tonight just to get that initial attack," the chief said. "We had interior firefighters to get up there and hit it. 
 
"If it was really roaring, we would have been in big trouble."
 
A second alarm was called at 2:30 a.m. and mutual aid had begun to pour in from the surrounding communities: Monroe, Halifax, Stamford and Whitingham arrived, as well as Massachusetts companies from Charlemont, Clarksburg, Colrain, Heath and Rowe. North Adams sent its ladder truck and North Adams Ambulance Service sent an ambulance and its rehab trailer.
 
The conditions were poor as snow had been falling for a couple hours by the time the fire was reported and the roads to the mountain town were getting slick. The Florida Fire Department had also tried to send a truck but it reportedly went off the road.
 
The inn dates back to the late 19th century and hosted a number of businesses until being turned into an inn and popular restaurant in the 1930s. The original structure is connected to a much larger later building that holds a tavern. The property is currently on the market and is listed as having four apartments and seven inn rooms. 
 
Not all the rooms were occupied and everyone was safely evacuated. 
 
It took about two hours to contain the fire. The third floor was damaged by fire and the efforts to contain it and the second floor has some water damage. The first floor, which has the restaurant, appeared to have escaped any damage.
 
Owner Marcia Evans said there was no one in the apartment with the pellet stove. The stoves have been running because of the cold and prior problems with pipes freezing. 
 
"The bar is OK. I don't know if there'll be power to the restaurant but I'm planning to go forward with it," she said. 
 
Efforts were being made to get the power back on to the newer builder and it was believed at least the restaurant in the inn could be powered up. Green Mountain Power had disconnected the electricity. 
 
The inn is a landmark on the town's main street, which is also Route 100. In addition to the attached structure, there's a house directly across a small avenue and a house behind it. 
 
"Anything to do with this building could turn out bad, especially with the amount of people living in it," Codogni said, adding he was thankful for the turnout by mutual aid. "This is a tough night to get everybody together."
 
It was almost 4:30 when the scene began to clear. 
 
"I love the Readsboro Fire Department, they were right on it," she said. "Right on it."
 
Updated on March 13 to clarify who first reacted to the fire.
     

Missing Williamstown Woman Located

UPDATE: At a little after 9 a.m. Friday morning, Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson reported Ms. Coll had been located and is alert and conscious.
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Wllliamstown Police are asking for help in finding Marilyn Coll, 84, who was last seen Wednesday evening around 5 p.m. on Stone Hill Road.
 
Anyone with information, please call Williamstown Police at 413-458-5733.
 
Searching has resumed in this area Friday morning, according to a post on the department's Facebook page.
     

Gasoline Smell Brings Williamstown Fire Department to College Dorm

by Stephen Dravis
iBerkshires Staff

Fire Department personnel check out the source of the odor, a hole that is part of a steam tunnel replacement project.
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Fire Department plans to investigate the construction work that appears to have produced a smell of gasoline in the mechanical room of a Williams College dormitory.
 
Fire Chief Craig Pedercini said the smell appeared to be related to the use of gasoline by a contractor working on a steam line replacement project on West Lawn, to the west of Morgan Hall, a 100-bed residence hall at the corner of Spring and Main Streets that currently is not occupied.
 
After evaluating the situation for nearly two hours, Pedercini said there was no fire or health issue, but the Fire Department and college were employing fans to push the odor out of Morgan Hall and prevent it from infiltrating nearby West College, a 45-room Main Street dorm to the west of the steam tunnel replacement work.
 
The report was called in to the fire station at about 5:55 on Thursday evening.
 
"The first arriving officers investigated and found they did have an odor of gasoline in the building," Pedercini said.
 
"What we’re finding out now is that the contractor was doing some work, and there was a need to use Styrofoam as part of it, and, apparently, a need to remove the Styrofoam. And they used gasoline, it sounds like, to dissolve the Styrofoam away from the pipe. The odor is just lingering in that hole and that steam vault."
 
Pedercini said he did not believe that it was standard practice to use gasoline that manner.
 
"No," he said. "I would say no. There will be more looked into that part, but it’s not kosher to me at all."
 
All of the gasoline use was outside the building, in the hole dug for the steam tunnel project, Pedercini said.
 
"You can see where they were using it," he said. "The vapors will hang in that ditch and find a nook or a crack or if there’s a pipe running [into the building] and there’s a little space round it, the vapors will seep through."
 
There were a half-dozen people in Morgan Hall when the alarm sounded. The building was cleared by the time firefighters arrived, Pedercini said.
 
"It’s not full of kids yet," he said. "It’s kind of nice that if it’s going to happen, it happen now.
 
"It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s a poor practice [to use gasoline in that manner]. I’ll be investigating it, and I’m sure the college will want to know why they were doing it."
     

Williamstown, North Adams Police Seek Reports of Stolen Jewelry

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Police are asking area residents to report recent losses of jewelry that may be connected to a North Adams woman who was arraigned on Wednesday.
 
Jessica Morgan, 30, of Gregory Avenue, was arraigned in Northern Berkshire District Court on one count of larceny over $250, Williamstown Police reported on Wednesday.
 
"On July 3, 2017, a Williamstown resident contacted the police department to report a significant amount of jewelry missing from her residence," the police news release read. "A subsequent investigation revealed that Morgan worked as a home health care worker in this home. It was later determined that jewelry matching the same description was pawned by Morgan. 
 
"Unfortunately, a significant amount of the jewelry was later transferred and melted down prior to it being discovered missing."
 
Williamstown Police questioned Morgan in connection with the case, police said.
 
"This investigation prompted the report of similar larcenies from other area residences where Morgan worked," the police news release read. "A large amount of jewelry and property remain missing. The [Williamstown Police Department] is seeking public assistance with any additional reports or information regarding Jessica Morgan or missing or found jewelry."
 
Police ask anyone with information to contact either Sgt. Scott McGowan of the Williamstown Police at 413-458-5733 or Officer Josh Zustra of the North Adams Police at 413-664-4944.
 
"At this time, the investigation is continuing and at the conclusion, further criminal charges will be filed," McGowan said on Wednesday. "The majority of these crimes appear to be from April through July of 2017. However, I am also looking back as far as January of 2015."
     
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