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North Adams Men Charged After High-Speed Chase

Vermont State Police

READSBORO, Vt. — Two North Adams, Mass., men are facing multiple charges after leading state police on a seven-mile high-speed chase in a stolen car early Tuesday morning and crashing at the intersection of Routes 8 and 100.

Shawn M. Tripodes and Matthew R. Rodriques, both 18, were taken to North Adams Regional Hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.

The pursuit began with the report of a stolen vehicle, a 2003 Subaru Forester that was later found abandoned later Tuesday morning on Pike Road in Whitingham.

The owner of the vehicle said he saw someone taking the Forester from his Merrifield Road home in Whitingham and heading toward Route 100 at about 1:46 a.m.

Sgt. Jeffrey Trudeau of the Brattleboro barracks was checking Merrifield Road when he spotted what he believed to be a suspicious vehicle, a 2008 Toyota Camry, with Massachusetts plates flipping on its headlights and quickly exiting a driveway. The trooper attempted to pull the car over at about 2:08 a.m.

The vehicle failed to stop and rapidly accelerated southbound on Route 100 toward the town of Readsboro, according to police, and was observed crossing the yellow centerline and traveling at a very high rate of speed.

The Camry led state police through Readsboro toward Stamford and state border. Massachusetts State Police and North Adams Police were notified of the motor vehicle pursuit and direction of travel. Massachusetts State Police responded back that they had taken a report of a stolen Toyota Camry from the town of Florida, Mass.

The Toyota Camry reached speeds in excess of 100 mph as it approached Heartwellville, where it failed to make the sharp corner at the highway junction. It skidded off the roadway and collided with several trees.  

The operator, who was later identified as Tripodes, fled from the vehicle, said police, and a short foot pursuit ensued before he was apprehended. Rodriques was located still in the passenger seat. Neither were wearing seat belts; vehicle is considered a total loss.

Readsboro and Stamford fire departments and North Adams Ambulance responded to the scene to assist. Heartwellville Towing removed the vehicle from the scene.

The Camry was confirmed to be stolen. State police also located a variety of gift cards, credit cards, a Vermont identification card and empty wallets inside the vehicle. Some items were tracked back to a residence on Route 100 in Stamford. The victim was unaware that the items and cash had been stolen during the night from her unlocked vehicle.  

Several other stolen credit cards located are tied to a theft investigation in the town of Adams, Mass.  State police also discovered that the residence that the Toyota Camry had originally fled from on Merrifield Road had been entered. The homeowners, who were home that night, discovered at 6 a.m. that suspects had allegedly entered their attached garage and ransacked their vehicle.

This case is still under investigation.  

Tripodes was processed for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs and he submitted to a blood test. He was issued a citation to appear at Vermont Superior Court, Windham Criminal Division, to answer to the charges of operating under the influence of drugs, attempting to elude a police officer, grossly negligent operation, and possession of stolen property.

Rodriques was issued a citation to appear in court to answer to the charge of possession of stolen property.

     

Alleged Vermont Cat-Killer Pleads Not Guilty

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
READSBORO, Vt. — Accused cat-killer Michael Choquette pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated animal cruelty Monday in Vermont District Court in Benningon, according to WCAX.

Choquette, 51, was arrested last week after his tenant reported to police he had killed her 4-year-old cat and dumped it into the outdoor wood furnace. Choquette told police it was an accident and he was trying to hide the body from the cat's owner, Kelly Gancarz.

State police discovered the animal's remains and charged Choquette with felony aggravated animal cruelty. During the investigation they learned of a similar incident with a former tenant's pet.

Police said Amanda Strange told them that her 4-year-old Siamese cat Mischief had been poisoned approximately a year earlier. The cat was allegedly fed rat poison inside Choquette's garage; it was taken to a local animal hospital, where it died from poisoning.

This new felony charge was added to the previous charge of killing Kelly Gancarz's cat on March 11.

Aggravated animal cruelty is when the perpetrator "intentionally kills an animal by means causing the animal undue pain or suffering," according to Vermont law.

Choquette could face up to six years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.
     

Readsboro Man Charged With Animal Cruelty

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
READSBORO, Vt. — A local man has been charged with aggravated animal cruelty for allegedly killing a cat and burning it to hide the fact from its owner.

Michael Choquette, 51,  of Route 100 was arrested and charged Tuesday by state police.

The cat's owner, Kelly Gancarz, 37, contacted police after Choquette, her landlord, allegedly called her on Monday night and admitted to killing the 4-year-old animal. Gancarz lives in an apartment above Choquette .

According to Gancarz, she heard her other cat, Dizzy, crying outside in distress late Sunday night. When she went outside, she saw Choquette standing at the outside wood boiler. She believed Dizzy was upset because it could hear the other cat.

The next day, she looked in the boiler and said she found the remains of the animal. State Trooper Robert Zink investigated the claim and confirmed the remains of a small cat were in the boiler.

According to police, Choquette admitted to killing the cat but claimed he threw a piece of fire wood at it just to scare it. "He stated that he put the cat in the wood boiler in order to not have to deal with backlash from Gancarz," the police report states.

He will appear in Vermont District Court in Bennington on Monday, March 19. Animal cruelty is a felony charge.
     

Vermont Police Investigating Double Fatal Shooting

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
READSBORO, Vt. — State police are investigating a double fatal shooting that occurred early Saturday.

Police say Benjamin Birch, 39, of Readsboro was killed in a hunting accident near Howe Pond. Birch was reportedly chasing a deer with two other hunters when one of his companions, Timothy Bolognani, accidently shot him. Bolognani, 49, of Readsboro, was so distraught, said police, he used his rifle to take his own life.

Police and ambulance personnel originally responded to a report of one injured man, then two men, discovered at a camp in the small town. Unconfirmed reports had said there were two men, one in his 20s and the other in 40s, both dead of gunshot wounds.

This is the second tragedy in barely a year for the Bolognani family. Timothy Bolognani's 18-year-old daughter, Jessica, was killed in a snowmobile accident last January. Bolognani is the son of Betty Bolognani, former state representative.

While accidental, this is also the second double-fatality connected to guns in the last year in Readsboro. On Dec. 2, 2010, 47-year-old Robert Finley shot and killed his father, James Finley, 69, before turning the gun on himself in a domestic fight.

No further information was immediately available.

Updated and rewritten throughout, 11 p.m., Nov. 26.

     

Readsboro Teen Killed in Snowmobile Accident

Staff Reports

READSBORO, Vt. — A Readsboro teen died Saturday night after being struck by a snowmobile during a party on private property about a mile off Route 100.

The office of the state's attorney is investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident that lead to the death of 18-year-old Jessica Bolognani. The accident was reported at about 10:30 p.m.

According to state police, Bolognani was riding on the back of a 2009 Polaris snowmobile operated by a Richard Bernard, 20, of Whitingham when she fell and was hit by a second snowmobile that was following, a 2001 Polaris being operated by 21-year-old Clinton Birch of Readsboro.

Bolognani was wearing a helmet but sustained a serious head injury and died of her injuries before she arrived at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. She was pronounced dead by the regional medical examiner's office.

A group of young adults were at the camp when Bernard, Bolognani and Birch left the camp to go snowmobiling, said police, and alcohol was involved.

Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage ordered an autopsy on Bolognani by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington on Monday.

The investigation into the incident is continuing; anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Mike Marvin or Trooper Travis Hess at the state police barracks in Shaftsbury at 802-442-5421. 

Bolognani was a star athlete who graduated from Twin Valley High School in Wilmington in June. She was majoring in health sciences at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Both college and high school classmates recalled a friendly, helpful, generous young woman on a Facebook page dedicated to her. "The whole entire town is in total devastation, she was adored by all," wrote one longtime family friend.

Tags: accident, fatal, teen      
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