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Woman Pleads Guilty in Sandisfield Fatal Crash

Staff Reports

Update Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, at 2:45 p.m.: Balsamo was sentenced in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday morning to six to 10 years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Cedar Junction on the vehicular homicide charge. The other charges were filed.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Connecticut woman pleaded guilty on Wednesday morning to charges related to the Sandisfield crash that killed Erin Dufour of Chicopee last year. Dufour, who was also listed by authorities as residing in Tolland, spent much of her life in Western Massachusetts.

Pamela N. Balsamo, 48, of Cedar Lane, Barkhamsted, Conn., appeared before Judge John  Agostini in Berkshire Superior Court. She pleaded guilty to single counts of motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of alcohol and operating to endanger, failure to stay within marked lanes and speeding.

Agostini ordered that she be held without bail at the Berkshire County House of Correction pending sentencing which will occur Monday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m.  
 
Balsamo was operating a Mercedes that struck the 29-year-old Dufour's Honda head-on on March 18, 2009.

The investigation was conducted by state troopers assigned to the Lee barracks.


Chicopee Woman Killed in Sandisfield Head-on Crash

11:40PM / Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SANDISFIELD, Mass. — A Chicopee woman was killed Wednesday evening after her car was hit head-on by another vehicle on Route 8 near Tucker's Tavern.

Erin E. Dufour, 29, of was northbound on Route 8 in a 2008 Honda hatchback at about 8 p.m. when she was struck head on by 47-year-old Pamela Balsamo of Barkhamsted, Conn., who was driving a 2002 Mercedes sedan south in the northbound lane, according to the preliminary investigation by Trooper James Somerville of the Lee barracks.

The Dufour suffered serious injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by the medical examiner. Balsamo was transported by ambulance with serious injuries to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, Conn.

The crash remains under investigation with the assistance of the state police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section and Crime Scene Services. The Sandisfield Police Department, Fire Department and emergency medical services and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner assisted troopers at the scene.

All lanes of Route 8 were closed for approximately 1 ½ hours for the crash investigation and vehicle removal.

Dufour had lived in Western Mass for 10 years and was a Pella Windows sales representative. Born in Maine, she spent much of her life there but spent her senior year of high school in New York, graduating from Bethlehem High School in Delmar.

An outdoorswoman and athlete, she received best in show for driving "The Queen Bee" at a tri-county demolition derby in Northampton. She loved cats and volunteered at the local animal shelter. Her parents live in Lakeville.

Updated with victim's identity, Thursday, March 19, 2009, 8:45 a.m.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009: This story has generated a great deal of interest so we have included more information about Ms. Dufour and a link to her obituary in SouthCoastToday.

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Kincaid Pleads Guilty to Aggravated Rape

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It's taken almost exactly a dozen years, two trials and numerous twists and turns through the court system to conclude the prosecution of Aaron Kincaid of Lenox.

Kincaid, 36, pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday morning to four counts of aggravated rape from an assault on a then 27-year-old woman on Sept. 24, 1998.

He was ordered by Judge John Agostini to serve concurrent 719-day sentences, or time already served, on the four charges at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Cedar Junction on the recommendation of the district attorney and his attorney. He was also placed on two years' probation on the condition he have no contact with the victim and a witness during the probationary period.

"We do not always achieve all that we aspire to in every case," said District Attorney David F. Capeless in a statement. "Today's sentence is not what was handed down back in 2001, but we have realized something else, something even more significant in this singular case – a vindication of the victim and the other witnesses after all these years, an affirmation under oath that they had, indeed, told the truth."

Kincaid was guilty of the same four charges in Superior Court in September 2001 and was ordered by Judge Thomas Curley to serve concurrent 15- to 18-year sentences in Walpole.

In May 2002, Kincaid filed a motion for a new trial and a post-verdict inquiry of the jurors. He alleged that the jury learned that a co-defendant, Richard C. Lampron Jr., had fled the state. Curley, who died in 2005, interviewed all the jurors and ordered a new trial for Kincaid.  


Coverage of Kincaid and Jansen's 2006 trial

Appellate Court 2009 opinion on  Kincaid and Jansen's requests for dismissal


The district attorney's office appealed the ruling and the Appeals Court agreed with the prosecution that any information about Lampron's flight came from juror speculation and not from some outside sources and that the evidence at trial permitted the jurors to infer that Lampron had fled. The court also ruled that the overwhelming evidence of Kincaid's guilt outweighed any influence that this information may have had upon the jury.  

The Supreme Judicial Court granted further appellate review of the Appeals Court's decision and affirmed Curley's order allowing a new trial for Kincaid. His second trial in December 2006 before Agostini resulted in a mistrial after the jury failed to deliver a verdict. Kincaid subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the indictments on double jeopardy grounds in the Superior Court. Agostini denied the motion and the Appeals Court affirmed the Superior Court's order.

Lampron was captured in Pennsylvania in 2002 and subsequently charged; he was sentenced to seven to 10 years in 2005, which he is serving concurrently with a similar sentence for his conviction on another rape in 1999. A third man, William E. Jansen of Pittsfield, was charged in October 2005. He was prosecuted along with Kincaid in the trial that ended with a hung jury. Both he and Kincaid attempted to have the charges dismissed but an Appeals Court last December upheld the indictments.

The three men were sharing an apartment in Lee when Jansen allegedly videotaped a masked Lampron and Kincaid have sex with the woman. The tape never surfaced but witnesses who saw it say the woman appeared to have been incapacitated.

Capeless, who as first assistant district attorney was the prosecuter at Kincaid's first trial, had high praise for the victim and the police investigators who have made numerous court appearances since 2000. 

"I have made every effort during the past 10 years to ensure that these horrible crimes were fully investigated and vigorously prosecuted, and that the convictions obtained were forcefully defended," he said. "I am gratified that our work and the decision of the first jury has finally been vindicated. The convictions in this case came about only as the result of a dogged, professional investigation by State Police Trooper Brian Berkel, the stoic persistence of the victim in seeing the case through, the commendable actions of the other witnesses in coming forward with their information, and the support and compassion shown to these persons by victim assistance advocate Mary Shogry. I am particularly pleased for all of them."

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Brackett Sentenced in Bunny Killings

Staff Reports

Wayne Brackett walks the track on Noel Field during Relay for Life in 2010 in this iBerkshires file photo.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Bunny killer Wayne P. Brackett was sentenced to four years in jail Friday morning after pleading guilty to numerous charges in Northern Berkshire District Court.
 
The 23-year-old North Adams man was caught on video June 9 committing mayhem on pet rabbits housed at Berkshire County Construction on Ashland Street after failing to gain entrance into several vehicles on the property. He admitted to killing five rabbits and breaking and entering.

He pleaded guilty to five counts each of animal cruelty and killing an animal, and single counts of breaking and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony and wanton destruction of property worth more than $250.

Judge Michael Ripps ordered Brackett to serve concurrent two-year sentences in the Berkshire County House of Correction on the cruelty to animal charges and two-year concurrent sentences to be served on and after the first sentence on the breaking and entering and destruction charges.

He also was placed on two years' probation on the charges of killing an animal on the condition he have no contact with the victims, undergo drug and alcohol screening and perform 100 hours of community service work during the probationary period.  

The investigation was conducted by members of the North Adams Police Department and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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North Adams Woman Killed in Route 2 Crash

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A city woman was killed Friday afternoon in a three-vehicle crash on Route 2 in Orange. Her identification has not been released pending notification of family.

Update: Police identified the woman as 59-year-old Anne Hill at 7:24 on Saturday morning.

Three others were injured in the crash, which occurred at about 3:15. State police from the Athol barracks responded to the scene.
 
Preliminary investigation by Trooper Frank Parillo indicates that a 2003 Toyota Matrix operated by a 59-year-old North Adams woman was eastbound on Route 2 when it veered into the westbound lanes, striking a 2008 Hyundai Elantra operated by Catherine Runge, 25, of Quincy. The Toyota then struck a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup truck head-on that was operated by John F. Maquire III, 45, of Stow.

The North Adams woman was transported to Athol Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Runge and Maquire were both transported to Athol Memorial with minor injuries.

Three passengers in the pickup were also taken to Athol Memorial: Susan Dearborn,47, was then transferred to University of Massachusetts Medical in Worcester with serious injuries. An 11-year-old boy suffered minor injuries and a 7-year-old girl was transported as a precaution. All three reside in Stow. State police do not release the names of juvenile victims.

The crash remains under investigation by Troop C with the assistance of the Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section and the Crime Scene Services Section. Troopers were assisted at the scene by the Orange Fire Department and the state Department of Transportation Highway Division.

During the crash investigation, the roadway was closed for approximately three hours for emergency response, vehicle removal and crash investigation.   

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Car Break-ins Reported in Williamstown

Staff Reports

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williamstown Police have received five reports of cars being broken into on Candlewood Drive.

Residents reported that electronic equipment and other items were stolen from their vehicles during the overnight of Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. All of the vehicles were unlocked at the time of the thefts.

Police are advising all residents and visitors to remove valuable items from their vehicles and lock their doors. "Although not a regular occurrence, these incidents are not unfamiliar to Williamstown," said Sgt. Scott McGowan.

Locking car doors may serve as a deterrent to a person who would rather not gain attention by smashing a window and creating a loud noise, which would alert a resident.

Any suspicious activities should be reported to the Williamstown Police immediately by calling 413-458-5733 or 911.

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