LATEST UPDATE | Driver of vehicle linked to North Adams homicide appears in court


NORTH ADAMS -- The missing 2005 blue Ford Taurus registered to homicide victim Ellen DePaoli is in police custody and will be searched as part of the ongoing homicide investigation into her death.

According to a statement released by the Berkshire District Attorney's office Friday, the car was located in Bennington, Vt. on Thursday evening, seized and brought back to Massachusetts.



Berkshire District Attorney spokesman Frederick Lantz declined to comment on whether the car was connected to the arrest of an unidentified individual by Bennington Police on Thursday afternoon.

He also declined to comment on whether the arrest was related to the homicide investigation, saying only that the individual was arrested on an outstanding Massachusetts probation warrant. No information was available on any other possible suspects in the case.

"An individual was arrested in Bennington and charged as a fugitive from justice," Lantz said Friday morning.

He said the individual would have to be arraigned in Bennington District Court on the fugitive from justice charge before being returned to the state. No information about an arraignment was available Friday morning, but several media outlets, including Transcript sister paper the Bennington Banner, were stationed at the courthouse Friday morning.

Preliminary autopsy results released by the district attorney's office Thursday confirmed that DePaoli was the victim of a homicide.

Specific details of the autopsy, performed by Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Anna McDonald from the Chief Medical Examiner's office in Boston on Thursday, are being withheld pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation.

"Anytime one of our citizens, particularly one of our seniors, is killed, there is cause for concern along with grief," Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said in a Thursday press release. "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."

Police announced they were searching for a 2005 blue Ford Taurus as part of the investigation of DePaoli's death on Thursday.

The vehicle was missing from DePaoli's 409 Walker St. residence and was registered to DePaoli with the license plate 88ZA27, according to a separate press release from Capeless' office.

DePaoli, 84, who was a long-time cafeteria supervisor at Drury High School, was found dead inside her home by police Tuesday night. Police were responding to a 911 call at 8 that night, during which the caller reported the death. The person who made the 911 call remains unidentified by the district attorney's office.

Investigators from the North Adams Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police were at the house Wednesday. A state police helicopter was seen circling the house and surrounding area midmorning and state police K-9 units were also called to the scene. Police also reportedly searched the nearby woods on all-terrain vehicles later that day.

Mayor Richard J. Alcombright reiterated Thursday that city schools were not closed Wednesday because he had been reassured by investigators there was "no imminent or immediate threat" to the community.

"If there was imminent danger or an immediate threat, we would have kept our schools closed," he said.

However, Superintendent James E. Montepare chose to heighten security at the city's schools Wednesday, enacting the district's "lockout" procedure as a precautionary measure.

"We have our schools locked everyday. The difference between what we do normally and a 'lockout' is that we don't buzz people into the building," Montepare said Thursday. "We don't take any risks -- recess is confined, no field trips are taken and the custodians, administrators and myself float around the building to make sure thinks are OK. Teachers are aware they need to report anything suspicious."

He added, "It's one of those situations, where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. If I'm going to err on something, I'm going to err of the side of safety and cautions. We're never afraid to take that extra step."

This is the first homicide-related death to take place in the city since 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, deputies from the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department and members of the Berkshire County Law Enforcement Task Force.