Pittsfield Police Investigating Deaths Of City Couple
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police are investing the deaths of a city couple.
Police say the bodies of John and Celeste Kordana, 53 and 39, respectively, were found in their Harryel Street home on Monday.
The bodies are being transferred to the Holyoke Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death, though the autopsies have not been scheduled.
According to the district attorney's office, officers were called to do a well-being check on the pair and upon arrival were unable to get into the home. At about 2:50 p.m., the Fire Department forced entry into the home, where the bodies were found.
The investigation is being conducted by members of the Pittsfield Police Department, state police assigned to the district attorney's office, and troopers from the Crime Scene Services Section.
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Report: Pittsfield Officer Used Excessive Force, Lied About Incident
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An internal affairs report contends that Pittsfield Police Officer Michael McHugh attempted to cover up an assault committed by a friend.
McHugh had not-guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, misleading a police officer or other person, and being a public employee making a false report on July 12.
His co-defendant is Jason LaBelle, 37, who had not-guilty pleas entered on his behalf on Monday on single counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, falsely reporting a crime, misleading a judge, and misleading a clerk.
The pair is accused of assaulting a 54-year-old man in Pittsfield on July 4, 2016. The victim in the assault was arrested by McHugh that night on counts of operating under the influence, disturbing the peace, and possession of an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle.
The police internal investigation report says the arrest report had false information and that LeBelle was allegedly allowed to kick the man, which was left out of the report. McHugh is also accused of drinking at the time of the incident, which is against police conduct regulations.
McHugh, who has worked for the department for 18 years, was off duty at the time. In his report, he claims LaBelle, whom he described as a friend, had contacted him shortly before 9:30 p.m. that night claiming the 54-year-old was "stalking his house" and was likely intoxicated. LaBelle then went to McHugh's house.
McHugh said the pair drove around the neighborhood looking for the man's vehicle and eventually found it in a driveway of a neighbor. McHugh said he approached the vehicle, identifying himself as an officer, and the man refused to get out of the vehicle. He said the man appeared to be reaching for something, which he felt could be a weapon.
"I had to pry his hands off of the steering wheel and eventually strike him in the midsection two or three times with my left knee in order for him to let go. Once I had his hands free, I pulled him from the vehicle and ground stabilized him, face down, on the ground," he wrote.
McHugh said he searched the vehicle and found empty beer bottles. He contacted a police sergeant and asked for patrol officers to be sent. McHugh said he then went to the owner of the home whose driveway the incident was occurring when he heard LaBelle and the victim yelling at one another.
McHugh said he did not see [LaBelle] get "within arm's reach" of the victim. The internal investigation report, however, contends that was not true.
"McHugh denies that [redacted] was ever near [the victim] during the arrest. However, during McHugh's recorded call to the station [redacted] can be heard in the background and [the victim] can be heard groaning and station [redacted]," the internal investigation report reads.
"It is noteworthy that in his arrest report Ofc. McHugh wrote 'I never witnessed [redacted] get within arm's reach of [the victim].' At the time no complaint had been filed by [the victim]. There was no legitimate reason for McHugh to make this assertion."
A grand jury found that there was sufficient evidence, which includes witness interviews and video of the incident, to suggest that LaBelle was allowed to approach the victim and kick him several times.
The internal affairs report says those involved had "fabricated" the story of how the victim received his injuries. The injuries were apparently reported as being related to an earlier incident in which the victim is accused of swinging at someone, whose name was redacted in the report. But the investigation found that did not happen.
"Based on video evidence and interviews it was clearly determined that the early encounter in [redacted] driveway did not occur. It is unknown whose decision it was to bring forth this story, however, it is clear that Ofc. McHugh would stand to benefit from its use as reason for the severe injuries that [the victim] suffered," the internal investigation report reads.
The report continues to say the victim hadn't reported the encounter leading to the injuries and that the victim "certainly would have reported that and attempted to bring additional charges for it."
Based on interviews with witnesses, police say the story did not unfold the way McHugh described and that the officer had used excessive force. Further, the report found McHugh in violation of department rules and regulations of conduct unbecoming an officer, use of official position, truthfulness, duty status, cooperation with investigations, criminal conduct and falsifying records.
McHugh apparently admitted to other officers that he had "four beers" prior to the incident. The department's rules say "off-duty officers shall not consume alcoholic beverages while carrying a department issued firearm, nor shall they carry a firearm while under the influence of prescription medicine."
"Of his own admission, Ofc. McHugh had been drinking prior to the event. Ofc. McHugh decided to take possession of his duty weapon, activate himself as a police officer, and take action regarding a neighborhood disturbance. Ofc. McHugh had ample opportunity to step back and call the station to report the activities of [the victim]," the internal investigation report reads. "Instead he acted on impulse, encountering [the victim], and then forcefully removing him from the truck."
The victim brought forth the complaint on Aug. 5, 2016, looking for charges against McHugh and LaBelle. An investigation began by Lt. Michael Winston and Lt. Jeffrey Bradford and, on Sept. 11, 2016, the investigators determined that the arrest report was questionable. A few days before that, Chief Michael Wynn authorized a hold on the internal affairs investigation and proceeded with a criminal investigation.
Lt. Mark Trapani and Lt. Michael Grady launched the criminal investigation. That led to a grand jury indictment of both LaBelle and McHugh. During that investigation, the internal affairs report states that McHugh was untruthful during two interviews with the detective bureau and provided limited information about cell phone calls he was being questioned about.
McHugh has been on paid administrative leave since August 2016, when the internal affairs investigation began, pending the outcome of the Civil Service process.
"Whenever the Pittsfield Police Department becomes aware of alleged misconduct by any of our members, we take those allegations very seriously. Complete and thorough investigations are conducted and when warranted, referrals are made to the appropriate criminal justice partners. Service as a police officer requires a high degree of public trust, and police officers, justifiably, are held to a higher standard," Chief Wynn had written in a prepared statement about the investigation two weeks ago.
McHugh has been involved in other off-duty incidents in the past. In 2009, he was knocked unconscious following a brawl outside of a city bar and was stabbed in 2011 following an altercation relating to a traffic issue.
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Superior Court Briefs: July 17 - July 20
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Monday, July 17.
Stephanie Bullett, 31, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute.
She was ordered to serve one year at the Berkshire County House of Correction. The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant in Pittsfield on October 9, 2015.
A single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws was dismissed by the state.
Michael Taylor, 57, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute, possession of heroin, and resisting arrest in connection with an incident in Pittsfield on June 6, 2016.
He also pleaded guilty to single counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, illegal possession of a firearm, and illegal possession of a loaded firearm relating to an incident in Pittsfield on July 11, 2016.
He was ordered to serve four to six years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the possession of cocaine and possession of oxycodone charges. He was given concurrent time at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the other charges.
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Wednesday, July 19.
Jeanne Rivera, 51, of Pittsfield had a not guilty plea entered on her behalf on a single count of larceny over $250 from a person age 60 or older.
She was released on personal recognizance. Rivera allegedly took approximately $27,000 from a 90-year-old man in Dalton between June 1, 2015, and October 30, 3016.
David Sumner, 26, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of trafficking in cocaine, armed career felon, illegal ownership of a firearm, possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card, and possession of counterfeit notes.
He was ordered to serve concurrent seven to nine years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the cocaine and armed career felon charges. He was given concurrent four and a half to five years on the possession of counterfeit notes, and given concurrent time at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the other charges.
The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant on Hamlin Street in Pittsfield on October 19, 2016. A single count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony was dismissed by the state.
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Friday, July 20.
Gregory Thompson, 37, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
He was ordered to serve concurrent three to four years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant on Memorial Drive in Pittsfield on August 27, 2015 and then a motor vehicle stop in Pittsfield on November 16, 2015.
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Supreme Court Upholds Veiovis Murder Conviction
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the conviction of 37-year-old Caius Veiovis for murder and kidnapping.
Veiovis was one of three men convicted in the murder of David Glasser, Edward Frampton, and Robert Chadwell in 2011. Veiovis had appealed his consecutive life sentences on three counts of murder in the first degree, three counts of kidnapping, and three counts of intimidation of a witness or other person. He was given a life sentence without parole on the murder charges and concurrent eight to 10 years on the other charges.
On Wednesday, the court upheld the conviction.
"We are pleased with the decision and happy for the family and friends of David Glasser, Edward Frampton and Robert Chadwell. We had always been confident that Caius Veiovis was justly convicted, on significant evidence that was fairly presented, and that the jurors were correct in their verdicts," District Attorney David Capeless said.
"Much praise goes to the many investigators from across the County who worked ceaselessly to develop the complicated web of circumstantial evidence that was necessary to bring Veiovis to final justice. The citizens of Berkshire County should be both proud and reassured by their dedication, professionalism, and commitment."
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Body Found on Mount Greylock Identified as Great Barrington Man
Update July 18, 2017: The body discovered Monday afternoon on Mount Greylock has been identified as Kurt Kruger of Great Barrington.
Kruger's death is not considered suspicious, according to a statement from the Berkshire district attorney's office.
His was discovered by a pair of hikers on the Cheshire Harbor Trail about a mile from the summit of Mount Greylock at about 3:30 p.m. Kruger's body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Holyoke where an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
Kruger was a furniture maker and poet, whose work often appeared in the Berkshire Edge.
The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to district attorney's office with assistance from the Crime Scene Services Section, troopers assigned to the Cheshire barracks, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Berkshire Mountain Search and Rescue, the Adams Forest Wardens, the Cheshire Fire Department and Adams Ambulance Service.
Original posting, July 17, 2017, 11:33 p.m.: ADAMS, Mass. — A body was removed from the Mount Greylock State Reservation early Monday evening.
The body was apparently discovered by a hiker near the Cheshire Harbor Trail in the late afternoon, according to state police. Further inquiries were referred to the district attorney's office.
State police detectives assigned to the Berkshire district attorney's office and Crime Scene services responded to the scene, as did a state medical examiner.
Adams Forest Wardens and Adams Ambulance Service were also called to the trailhead off West Mountain Road in Adams to assist as needed. A quad all-terrain vehicle was brought to the site to help with the removal, according to scanner reports.
No further information was immediately available.
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