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Pownal Van Crash Blamed on Deer

Staff Reports

POWNAL, Vt. — A Comcast van was totaled on Thursday afternoon after a deer ran in front of the driver.

In her report, Trooper Lauren Ronan said she responded to the crash at about 2 p.m. on Route 7, but did not detail the location. The conditions were dry and sunny.

The work van, a 2006 Ford E-250, was found with "extensive damage blocking both the northbound and southbound lanes." The van was totaled.

The driver, Jedadiah Lampron, 33, of Bennington, who had been wearing a seat belt, was unhurt in the crash. Lampron said he was southbound on Route 7 when the deer ran out in front of him. He was able to avoid hitting the animal but lost control of the van and "struck a rock wall on the south bound edge of the roadway."

Lampron was not cited for the accident but was ticketed for driving with a suspended license.

Vermont State Police are reminding drivers to remain "extremely vigilant" for wildlife crossing roadways during the fall season.

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Police Operation Leads To 16 Arrests In Bennington

Staff Reports

BENNINGTON, Vt. — State police have arrested 16 suspected drug dealers in part of a sweep across Bennington County.

Police say Operation Strike Two was launched Wednesday after a six-month-long investigation identifying 23 suspects. Sixteen had been arrested as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday; seven others had not been located.

Police partnered with local and county law enforcement agencies to sweep the county looking for the suspects.

"Our partnerships with municipal, state, and county law enforcement agencies, allow us to take productive steps deter the epidemic abuse of illicit drugs, that is driving crime and destroying the lives of our families and friends," said Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette in a prepared statement.

Investigators will be pursuing arrest warrants for those who have not been arrested but state police believe a number of them will turn themselves in.

Those arrested were transported to either the state police barracks in Shaftsbury or the Bennington Police Department for processing. Those arrested will be taken directly to Vermont District Court for arraignment, according to police. Each person arrested could face between five to 20 years in prison.

"I feel very strongly about the opiate epidemic that is impacting Vermont," said Manchester Police Chief Michael Hall, in a statement. "The success of this operation is a another step forward for Bennington County in its fight with drugs and crime."

No one was injured during the operation.

Below is a list of those targeted in the sweep. The ones in red have not been apprehended.

Vermont State Police Operation Strike Two Suspect List.


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North Adams Man Pleads Not Guilty to Murder

By John Durkan
iBerkshires Staff
David Delratez entered not guilty pleas for multiple charges, including the murder of 84-year-old Ellen Depaoli, on Monday morning at Northern Berkshire District Court.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — David A. Delratez, 41, of Walker Street pleaded not guilty on Monday to single counts of murder and larceny of a motor vehicle in connection to the death of Ellen Depaoli, 84.
Delratez appeared in Northern Berkshire District Court before Judge Michael Ripps on those charges and several others.
According to a report filed by State Police, Delratez claims two unnamed men are responsible for the killing.
Delratez told police he had a friendly relationship with his neighbor, Depaoli.
"I loved that old woman, I hurt that old woman, I could see it in her eyes," he was reported saying when his handcuffs were removed in the holding area of the Bennington (Vt.) Police Department.
Deratez was taken into custody in Bennington on a violation of his probation after police found Depaoli's car, which had been missing from the scene. Inside the car, which was allegedly stolen by Delratez, officers found a knife  that "appears to be consistent with the type of weapon used to inflict the stab wounds" on Depaoli, according to the report.
Depaoli was found dead on Sept. 17 at her Walker Street residence. According to the police report, Depaoli's cause of death was "both blunt force injury to the head and sharp force injury to the torso."
The chief medical examiner ruled it a homicide.
The report also states that Delratez told investigators he entered the 409 Walker St. home when "this kid and another guy said come on in." Delratez allegedly told police that he knew her son, James Depaoli, was not home because his truck wasn't in the driveway.
Delratez visited Depaoli often and stayed at her residence overnight on occasion, according to the report.
Inside the house, Delratez said the two people told him "we want our [stuff]" and heard the sound of gurgling, discovering Depaoli on the floor, the police report reads.
He told investigators he and Depaoli's son had robbed drug dealers and angered them.
After, Delratez said the assailants ordered him to drive Depaoli's car to Pittsfield, Albany, N.Y. and Troy, N.Y. He allegedly told police he spent the next two or three days drunk and drove to Bennington because he was scared.
The car was discovered on Thursday, Sept. 19, in Bennington outside the residence of Darlene Oldham on Valentine Street. Oldham told Vermont State Police that Delratez arrived unannounced at 3 p.m. on Sept. 18 and spent the night. Oldham also reportedly told police that Delratez said his sister gave him a ride to Bennington from her New York home.
The report says Delratez eventually was found on Scott Street after he ran from the police on Main Street.
Delratez also entered not guilty pleas for one count of breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor and one count of malicious destruction of property under $250, both in connection to an incident in Clarksburg on Sept. 13.
Delratez also pleaded not guilty to one count of use of a motor vehicle without authority, in connection to an incident in Clarksburg on Sept. 17.
Delratez will be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without bail.
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Man Charged With Murder of North Adams Woman

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

David Delratez, 41, was extradited to Massachusetts on Friday on previous warrants. He was charged with Ellen Depaoli's murder on being returned to the commonwealth. He is being held without bail and will be arraigned in North Adams on Monday.

Updated at 8:30 p.m., Sept. 20, 2013, with rewrites throughout to reflect new charges and change of datelines

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police have charged David A. Delratez, 41, of Walker Street with the murder of 84-year-old Ellen Depaoli, who lived on the same street.

Delratez was charged with single counts of murder and larceny of a motor vehicle. He is being held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without bail and will be arraigned in Northern Berkshire District Court on Monday morning.

Depaoli's body was found inside her home on Tuesday night. The investigation has included multiple law enforcement agencies, including assistance from the Bennington (Vt.) Police Department.

"Great appreciation is due to the many investigators who worked tirelessly in this case, some several days with little or no sleep," said Berkshire District Attorney David A. Capeless in a statement. "It was through the coordinated efforts of multiple police agencies that we were able to make this arrest."  

Deltratez was arrested on outstanding warrants Thursday night during the recovery of Depaoli's vehicle in Bennington. He appeared before Judge Nancy Corsones in Vermont District Court early Friday afternoon on charges of violating probation on felonies committed in Massachusetts.

He waived his rights for rendition to Massachusetts and was taken into custody shortly thereafter by Berkshire County law enforcement and charged upon being returned to the commonwealth.

According to an affidavit filed by Bennington Police Sgt. David L. Dutcher, North Adams (Mass.) Police Detective John Leclair contacted him requesting assistance for "a person of interest" after locating Delratez's cell phone through GPS. Delratez was said to have friends in the Bennington area, and that he may driving a blue Taurus, the same description as Depaoli's.

According to court documents, Depaoli's vehicle was parked across the street from a Valentine Street apartment in Bennington occupied by Darlene Oldham. Police say they were told Delratez was "hanging around" with Oldham. When investigators were going to check a nearby Pleasant Street apartment, officers spotted Delratez running behind neighboring homes and took him into custody as a fugitive from Massachusetts.

The court documents can be found here.

Delratez had previously been placed on probation in 2012 after an admission of sufficient facts of assault and battery and assault with a dangerous weapon against his now former wife. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail and placed on probation until 2015. According to the court affadavit, he is suspected in a burglary at his former wife's home in Clarksburg on Friday, Sept. 13. A warrant was issued for his arrest in that case when his probation officer could not locate him.

At Friday's rendition hearing, he voluntarily agreed to be extradited to Massachusetts for court proceedings on the previous felonies. He appeared calm and said he understood the proceedings, responding to questions with "yes" or "no." The public defender assigned to his case, attorney Frederick Bragdon, declined to comment; three women who had been in the court with him quickly left the building.

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North Adams Residents Frustrated by Silence on Homicide

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
Mayor Richard Alcombright, at right at the scene of the crime on Wednesday, said he's been limited in giving out information so as not to jeopardize the investigation.

Update at 11:10 a.m., Sept. 20, 2013: Police are confirming that Depaoli's 2005 Ford Taurus was located in Bennington, Vt. According to the district attorney's office:

"The vehicle was seized Thursday night and was brought back to Berkshire County.  Investigators and Crime Scene Techs will be processing the car for possible evidence in connection with the death of Depaoli."

Posted at 7:59 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2013: WTEN & WNYT are reporting Bennington (Vt.) Police and Berkshire County deputies have arrested someone wanted for questioning in the homicide of Ellen Depaoli and have located her car.

The spokesman for the DA's office told us shortly before 7 p.m. he only knew someone had been arrested as a fugitive from justice on a Massachusetts probation violation. Minutes before, District Attorney David Capeless said the investigation was still open.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An autopsy has confirmed that the death of 84-year-old Ellen Depaoli was a homicide, but officials are witholding the circumstances of her death. Her death is being described as "an isolated incident."

Depaoli's body was found Tuesday night at her home and taken to the chief medical examiner's office in Boston. The autopsy was performed Thursday by Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Anna McDonald.

"This is a very active, ongoing police investigation. Anytime one or our citizens, particularly one of our seniors, is killed, there is cause for concern along with grief," said District Attorney David Capeless in a statement. "However, based upon the information that investigators have developed, we consider this to be an isolated incident and North Adams residents should not be unduly alarmed."

A number of North Adams residents, however, have been alarmed by the slow pace of information being dissiminated to the community and have made their frustration known on Mayor Richard Alcombright's Facebook page and other social media.

A woman who lives on Walker Street wondered on Wednesday why she got a CodeRed message through the city's alert system about the annual downtown block party but not about a slaying just down the street from her home. Others speculated on why they were told there was no "imminent" danger, yet schools in the city initiated security procedures.

"If there is not concern why were the schools locked down. Walker Street has a lot of elderly people and they were not assured very early on in this," wrote one resident on the mayor's wall. "What don't they understand about social media, and immediate alerts????" wrote one of our readers.

Alcombright said he understood the frustrations but was limited in what he could say because of the ongoing investigation.

"I think that folks need to know that I, like all others in a situation like this, follow a chain of command in these situations and when told by the DA and State Police to not communicate ... then I do not communicate," he said in response to questions about the communications with the public.

The CodeRed system — which can be used to send recorded messages or texts to residents who sign up for the free service — was not used because state police and the district attorney's office had instructed him not to release any information.

"To release what I knew would have certainly compromised the work that they were doing which is first and foremost," he wrote. "To release something vague would have, in my opinion, only further fueled the rumor mill and created additional angst."

Alcombright said he has been informed as necessary on the investigation but is not privy to all the details. He had also met with Depaoli's family on Wednesday. The investigation falls under the jurisdiction of public safety officials, he said, describing himself as "part of a team."

"We have to protect the integrity of these processes so we can assure a result," he said Thursday evening.  "If I thought for one minute that anyone was in danger, our schools were in danger, I would communicate that in a heartbeat."

The mayor said his focus had been getting assurances in early morning hours Wednesday that it would be safe to send children to school, which was done with some security restrictions. The "lockout" kept the children inside and any visitors outside.
"Public Safety is very important to me and my administration and if for one moment I thought there were any immediate threats out there — you, the entire media, CodeRed, my FB and whatever would have known," he wrote.

When a Facebook post or tweet can reach hundreds, if not thousands, instantly, the ability to keep information — not to mention speculation — at a minimum is difficult to say the least. Especially when there are helicopters overhead and an unknown person or persons possibly on the run (or not).

Pressed Thursday evening about the lack of information being released, Capeless would only respond "it's an open investigation."

The mayor's posts on Facebook have tried to address some of the frustration, and his page has been used to post press releases directly from the district attorney's office. However, Alcombright does plan to review the communications process with his public safety officials and the district attorney's office.

"This was the first 'go around' with this sort of thing for me and I played it completely by the DA's book," he said. "But I will review a procedure for better communication."

More importantly, the mayor said, "we have to let the authorities do what they do to catch the bad guys.

"We owe it to Mrs. Depaoli, we owe it to her family."

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