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Monday, December 17, 2012

A Crime Free Golden Age in the Berkshires

D.A. Capeless at arraignment for triple
homicice- photo J.Durwin iBerskhires
Perhaps the local legend I have heard told most often is that times have surely changed, that things are quite different now from a previous, more peaceful golden era where folks brought up their kids right and crime was less an issue- at least serious, ghastly crimes such as those in recent years. Despite years of historical research, I have been unable to locate precisely when this harmonic time period occurred, but I have managed to eliminate some time frames from the search. The following is a sliver sampling of the dates I have been able to eliminate as I continue to search for exactly when this epoch took place.

May 11, 1753- Two men shot and chopped up a Mahican native at Stockbridge following an argument.

April 15, 1755- Multiple men shot and stabbed William Race to death in his Sheffield home.

Feb 20, 1806- Ephraim Wheeler is hanged in Lenox for the rape of his 13 year old daughter. Prior to this, rape of one's own child was typically handled locally as a misdemeanor, and cases can be found in local court records on a monthly basis.

Nov 22, 1826- Samuel Charles becomes the fifth man hung in Lenox in the early1800s, for the murder of a man in Richmond.

July 29, 1861- Henry Pratt cuts the throat of his 17 year old wife/niece and then his own at New Ashford. [Full story]

Sep 7, 1862- Mrs. Emily Jones and her two children brutally murdered while picking berries one day in Otis, by Thomas and James Callendar.  Their bodies were concealed and only located after an extensive search.

July 29, 1877- Herbert Blanchard shoots two Savoy men in the middle of church on Sunday after being confronted about attempting to seduce a preteen girl.

Jan 10, 1882- Oscar Beckwith kills his business partner Simon Vandercook at Alford. Vandercook's remains are found chopped up, some burned in the woodstove while others were found in a brine barrel. Beckwith was suspected by some of cannibalism, and eventually hung at Hudson 6 years later.

August 6, 1897- Henry and Blanche Reed are bludgeoned to death in their North Adams home. While listed as unsolved, over the next 3 years, 3 individuals involved in the case, including two investigating officers, commit suicide. The case remains shrouded in mystery.

Aug 8, 1898- Fred Webster, who had recently been paroled from a murder in Egremont 20 years earlier, shot his brother and himself at the dinner table. The N.A. Transcript called it “yet another murder to the long list of crimes in Berkshire County” at that time.

Aug 20, 1900- May Fosburgh is shot dead in the middle of the night in her Tyler Street, Pittsfield home, either by her brother (tried & acquitted) or by alleged robbers (never identified). [Full story]

Oct 26, 1908- 24 defendants arraigned in Pittsfield for crimes over the weekend, and the extradition of serial killer Elroy Kent from Pittsfield to Vermont, while fire fighters were meanwhile battling acts of arson that had set the hills ablaze across the Berkshires for the past week. [More info]

Dec 12, 1915- beloved Civil War vet Lafayette Battelle is robbed and bludgeoned to death in his Monterey home [Full story]

Dec 17 1943- A skull found on West Mountain is believed to be from an abducted 22 year old schoolteacher; meanwhile, an armed robber nabs $190 from Pedercini Restaurant in North Adams.

May 9, 1945- Pittsfield's Willie Wynn is arrested for killing his 26 year old girlfriend. The following month, James Noxon is convicted of intentionally electrocuting his 6 month old son to death.

May 22, 1959 – News of the day: manhunt for two missing North Adams girls, corpse found floating in Silver Lake, woman robbed while in a North St. Shop.

October 7, 1976- Cynthia Krizack becomes the second unsolved murder of a teenage girl in less than two years; two out of at least a dozen murders within the county in a 3 year period.

July 9, 1981- Seven Lenox youths indicted for manslaughter in the drowning deaths of two Lee High students.

June, 1984 – The Springside Park zoo is finally closed after years of persistent vandalism. At least six animals had been butchered there since 1972, among dozens of malicious acts of destruction at that park since the 1960s.

Jan 7, 1994- Lewis Lent is arrested in Lanesboro and confesses to the murders of Jimmy Bernardo and Sara Anne Wood. Some investigators believe he may have been responsible for the murders of as many as 10 children.

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