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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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Police Searching for Car Owned by North Adams Victim

Staff Reports
An investigator checks for fingerprints on a pickup at the scene. Police are looking for a blue Ford Taurus that is missing from the property.

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."

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are searching for a car owned by the late Ellen Depaoli, whose body was found Tuesday night in her home.

A blue 2005 Ford Taurus with license plate 88ZA27 that was registered to Depaoli is missing from her residence. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the car is asked to call the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4944.

No information was given about who may have taken the car or if its location is related to a suspect in the homicide. Police had been on the lookout for the Taurus since Tuesday night, according to scanner reports.

The investigation into Depaoli's death is being coordinated through the district attorney's office and very little information is being made public about the crime.

Depaoli, 84, was found by police after a call reporting a death at her residence. Police have not revealed who made the call and there is no information on the police log other than officers and ambulances responded to the scene.

An army of investigators from state and local law enforcement descended on the scene at 409 Walker St. on Wednesday, shutting off the upper section of the residential road until early evening. Depaoli's body has been taken to the chief medical examiner's office in Boston.

A gray 4x4 extend cab pickup was parked in the driveway of the home in front of what appeared to be a single-car garage. The truck was searched and checked for fingerprints later in the afternoon as crime scene investigators moved their examination of the scene outside the single-family home.

Investigators also took all-terrain vehicles to check the trails in the wooded region behind the house that lead to Clarksburg and Vermont.

Depaoli, a longtime supervisor of the Drury High School cafeteria, was reportedly living in the home with a son. Her husband died in 1999.

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North Adams Woman's Death Ruled Homicide

Staff Reports
Police investigators were at the scene of a homicide on Walker Street most of the day Wednesday.

Updated 8:57 a.m., Sept. 19, 2013, with information from latest district attorney release. Rewrite throughout. Original story posted at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are treating the death of an 84-year-old North Adams woman as a homicide and are now searching for her car.

Police received a 911 call at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday reporting a death at 409 Walker St., according to a statement form the district attorney's office.

Officers arrived on the scene to find the deceased, Ellen Depaoli.

On Thursday morning, the district attorney's office released a third statement that states a blue 2005 Ford Taurus, Massachusetts registration 88ZA27, that was registed to Depaoli is missing from her residence. Police are asking anyone who knows the whereabouts of her car to contact the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4944.

The statement does not indicate the circumstance surrounding Depaoli's death other to say it is "under investigation at this time."

A second statement at 2:13 p.m. on Wednesday from the district attorney states: "Investigators expect an autopsy, to determine the exact cause of death, to be conducted tomorrow at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Boston."

Police have been tight-lipped about the  incident.

North Adams Police and Ambulance arrived at 409 Walker at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, state police, North Adams Police and Mayor Richard Alcombright were all at the scene, which is near the Clarksburg border.

A vehicle with the chief medical examiner's logo arrived about 12:30 p.m., along with an all-terrain vehicle from the Fire Department. A second ATV arrived shortly after. Both ATVs were driven down by the nearby high tension wires where trails open up north toward Clarksburg and Vermont.

Police declined to comment last night or this morning on what had happened and there was no information on the police log other than officers and the ambulance responded to the home. All questions about the incident are being referred to the district attorney's office.

"I don't want to talk out of turn, this is being handled and communicated through the district attorney's office," said Mayor Richard Alcombright when pressed by media at the scene. He refused to comment on any particulars, including whether there was even a crime committed. "I am not going to comment," he said, referring all communications to the district attorney's office.

He did say officials felt comfortable opening the schools this morning, but declined to say if there was a suspect either in custody or on the run.  

"We did not think there was anything for folks to worry about," he said.

In response to rumors of a perpetrator on the run, the mayor posted on his Facebook page this morning that "there is no imminent threat at this time. If there was, I would communicate that immediately."

The North Adams Schools were in lockout mode during the day. According to a statement on the school department's website: "All North Adams schools are currently enacting heightened security measures as a precaution in light of the tragic death of a local woman last night and the active police response."

None of the schools "are in imminent danger," it continues, however, students were kept inside, exteriors doors were locked and visitors were not allowed in.

Police presence on Walker Street was heavy overnight, with a number of vehicles there in the early morning hours. Attempts to approach the house shortly after midnight were rebuffed. Crime scene tape was stretched across the front yard.

Police had blocked off the street to through-traffic by 10 a.m. Wednesday, diverting traffic across Daniels Road and turning it back below the home.

The single-family home is in a lightly developed residential area. The house was owned by Olympio and Ellen Dickinson Depaoli, according to documents on file in the Registry of Deeds. Olympio Depaoli died in 1999. The couple appeared to have lived in the house since at least 1950; in later years, a son had been reportedly living with her.

Depaoli had run the Drury High School cafeteria for many years.

"She was a wonderful person," said Mary Haley Hewitt, who had worked under Depaoli for 15 years. "She was good to me, she was good to all of us who worked for her. She was just a nice lady."

This is the first murder in the city since the deaths of Julie Shade, 22,  and Daniel Walters, 19, in separate incidents in 2008.

The investigation is being 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.

This article will be frequently updated as we receive more information.

Left, Clarksburg Police blocked access to the upper section of Walker Street; right, a busy scene outside the house earlier Wednesday morning.

 

 

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Superior Court Briefs: September 9 - September 12

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Monday, September 9.
 
Devin Newman, 24, of Springfield pleaded guilty to two counts of distribution of cocaine and conspiracy to violate drug laws. 
 
Newman was ordered to serve concurrent two and a half year sentences at the Berkshire County House of Corrections. Newman conspired with others to sell cocaine in Pittsfield between October 14, 2010 and October 21, 2010. He also sold cocaine in Pittsfield on December 27, 2011 and January 2, 2012.
 
Walter Harris, 25, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, illegal ownership of a firearm, improper storage of a firearm and possession of counterfeit bills.
 
He was ordered to serve three and a half to five years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was placed on one year probation on the possession of a firearm charge and given concurrent sentences at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the other charges.
 
The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant at his home on September 26, 2012.
 
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Wednesday, September 11.
 
David Rosander, 30, of North Adams has a single count of assault and battery continued without a change of plea for six months.
 
The charge stems from an incident in North Adams on February 10, 2013. Single counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, trafficking in cocaine, illegal ownership of a firearm, possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card and improper storage of a firearm were dismissed by the state.
 
The state conceded that the evidence leading those those charges were seized improperly.
 
Eyzaiya Moody, 30, of Pittsfield was sentenced after pleading guilty on Sept. 5 to single counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute - his second offense - drug violation in a school zone, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a public employee, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license - his second offense - negligent operation of a motor vehicle and failure to stop for a police officer.
 
He was sentenced to serve one day at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the possession of cocaine charge, four to six years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the school zone charge, given concurrent house of correction sentences on the assault charges and the motor vehicle offenses were place on file.
 
The charges stem from a motor vehicle chase in Pittsfield on January 4, 2013.
 
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Thursday, September 12.
 
Joseph Baker, 30, of Pittsfield was sentenced after pleading guilty to a single count of larceny from a person on Aug. 27.
 
Baker was placed on two years probation. The charge was due to his involvement with an unarmed robbery at the Pittsfield Price Chopper on August 11, 2012.
 
Gerald Field, 45, of Monterey pleaded guilty to two counts of intimidation of a witness or other person.
 
He was sentenced to four to since years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. The sentence begins after the one he is currently serving. 
 
Field intimidated two witnesses in a criminal matter in Great Barrington between August 15, 2011 and January 10, 2012.
 
Jeanne Kuklewicz, 33, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of unarmed robbery, assault and battery on a public employee, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
 
She was sentenced to one year of a two year sentence at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the assault and battery charge. She was placed on two years probation on the unarmed robbery charge. She was given concurrent house of correction time on the other charges.
 
Kuklewicz was involved in an unarmed robbery at the Pittsfield Price Chopper on August 11, 2012. The other charges stem from her arrest the following day in Pittsfield.
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