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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

MA- Sex Offender Killed By Jeep That Left Scene

10-17-2008 Massachusetts:

Police Searching For Driver In Fatal Crash

BOSTON -- A Level 3 sex offender who was riding a bike in Lawrence Thursday night was struck and killed by a driver who allegedly fled the scene, according to the Eagle Tribune.

Robert Lagasse, 43, of Lawrence, was riding a bike at about 6:30 p.m. on Merrimack Street when he was struck by a blue 2008 Jeep Cherokee, the newspaper reported. He was flown to Boston Medical Center, where he died Friday morning.

A man driving a taxicab behind the Jeep witnessed the crash, wrote down the license plate number and brought it to police. Lawrence police Chief John Romero said the car was traced to a rental company in Methuen.

Police questioned a man who said that he rented the car for a female friend who lives in Salem, N.H. Officials are searching for the vehicle that has Massachusetts license plate 83F S93.

The victim was a Level 3 sex offender who was convicted in 1989 of two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, the newspaper reported. ..News Source.. by WCVB TV


Woman named as 'person of interest' in hit-and-run death of a bicyclist

10-17-2008 Massachusetts:

LAWRENCE - The car believed to be involved in last night's hit-and-run death of a bicyclist was located in Hudson, N.H. today and a person of interest in the case has been named.

Police Chief John J. Romero says the Jeep Cherokee has been towed to Lawrence and has damage that would be consistent with such an accident.

Romero says Charlene Traficante, 34, formerly of Salem, N.H., is expected to be questioned later today as a "person of interest" in the death of Robert Lagasse, 43, of 77 S. Union St.

Police questioned a Haverhill man who had rented the car that struck Lagasse. Michael Mehrman, 38, told police he did rent the car, but had loaned it to Traficante.

Lagasse was struck while riding his mountain bike at about 6:30 p.m. on Merrimack Street. Witnesses said the car drove, leaving Lagasse's bike and body in the street.

Lagasse was flown by medical helicopter to Boston Medical Center, where he died early this morning.

"A taxi cab driver who was a good citizen is the real hero that really made this case for us and gave us the information we needed to go forward with our investigation," Lawrence police Chief John Romero said. "He was driving behind the Jeep Cherokee when he literally saw the guy flying through the air. The guy wrote down the plate number of the vehicle and drove right to the police station. ... We were able to trace the car to a rental company in Methuen."

Police were able to identify the victim after two friends walked up to officers at the accident scene.

"They said the man was their friend and that he was going to the package store to get some beer for them. They had been drinking under the Central Bridge and he was going for some more, Romero said.

Lagasse was a Level 3 sex offender. Police said Lagasse was convicted in 1989 of two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and in 2002 on a charge of open and gross lewdness. ..News Source.. by The Eagle Tribune


Police: Man may have been driving in hit-and-run fatal

10-21-2008 New Hampshire:

LAWRENCE — A Hudson, N.H., man is the second being named as a "person of interest" in the hit-and-run death of a bicyclist, based on surveillance video and more recollections from an eyewitness.

Police want to question Edward Couture of Hudson, N.H., about the Thursday night accident. The car believed to be involved was found at his home Friday morning. He is an acquaintance of Charlene Traficante, 34, of Woburn, the woman police named Friday as a person of interest.

A cab driver who saw the aftermath of the accident, which killed 43-year-old Robert Lagasse of 77 S. Union St., said he believes there were two people in the car and a male was driving.

Police Chief John Romero said surveillance video taken from businesses on South Broadway shows the rented Jeep Grand Cherokee as it left the parking lot of a local bar. Romero said police are working to enhance the video to identify who was behind the wheel of the sport utility vehicle moments before the crash.

"We have some video footage that could shed some light on who as driving at the time of the accident,'' he said.

Traficante was named as a person of interest in the case after the man who rented the Jeep told police he let her borrow it. Police were hoping to speak to her Friday night but she has yet to show up for questioning.

The 2008 Jeep with fresh damage to the front passenger side was found at Couture's New Hampshire home Friday morning.

Lagasse was riding a bicycle on Merrimack Street about 6 p.m. Thursday, when he was hit from behind by the Jeep, which fled the scene. The cab driver told police he did not witness the hit, but did see Lagasse flying in the air.

Friends of Lagasse, who identified him at the scene, told police they had been drinking beer under the Central Bridge, and that Lagasse was bicycling to the package store to get some more when the accident occurred. ..News Source.. by Jim Patten


NH- Man gives 'useful information' in fatal hit-and-run

10-23-2008 New Hampshire:

LAWRENCE — A New Hampshire man identified as a person of interest in a fatal hit-and-run crash has given police phone records in an attempt to prove he was at home when the man (RSO) on a bicycle was run down.

Edward Couture, of Hudson, N.H., was interviewed by city police Tuesday about the Oct. 16, accident that killed Robert Lagasse (RSO), 43, of 77 S. Union St. Lagasse was hit while riding a bicycle on Merrimack Street around 6 p.m., while going to buy beer.

A city cab driver witnessed the accident and gave police a description of the vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was later recovered at Couture's house. The cab driver also said he saw two people in the Jeep, and a man was driving.

Charlene Traficante, formerly of Salem, N.H., and a female acquaintance of Couture, remains a person of interest in the case. A Haverhill man identified her as the woman for whom he had rented the Jeep.

"Edward Couture gave us some useful information, and related some information we are now following up," police Chief John Romero said.

Couture told police he had received several calls from Traficante throughout the afternoon and night, Romero said.

Couture told police Traficante returned to his home with the Jeep about 8:30 p.m., and never mentioned the accident, Romero said.

"Now the investigation brings us back to her," Romero said of Traficante. "We still need to interview her."

Based on the investigation so far, police know the Jeep was in her possession, Romero said. ..News Source.. by Jim Patten


MA- Police: Woman refuses to cooperate in fatal hit-and-run probe


LAWRENCE — A woman allegedly given use of a rented Jeep Grand Cherokee involved in the hit-and-run death of a homeless man is refusing to cooperate with the investigation, police said.

It's been almost two weeks since Robert Lagasse, 44, was struck and killed while riding a bicycle on Merrimack Street. He was buried yesterday.

Police Chief John Romero said if Charlene Traficante, 34, of Woburn continues to refuse to cooperate, police could take the case to an Essex County grand jury through the district attorney's office. She has been declared a "person of interest" in the case.

"We have made several requests to speak to her, but her attorney says she is unavailable at this time," Romero said yesterday. Her attorney, Anthony Ortiz, did not return calls for comment.

During grand jury testimony, a person can testify freely, can invoke their rights against self-incrimination, or can be compelled to testify under a grant of immunity.

Meanwhile, Lagasse's mother, Lillian Lagasse of 77 S. Union St., said yesterday she is frustrated no one has been arrested in connection with the Oct. 16 hit-and-run.

"That was my son that got killed. I just buried him today," she said. "Whoever did it should pay."

A cab driver who witnessed the accident told police there were two people in the vehicle and said he believes it was a man behind the wheel.

Romero said the case depends on police being able to identify the person behind the wheel when the accident occurred. Right now, Romero said, police just don't have enough to charge someone.

"We have an accident where someone was killed, and the person responsible left the scene. We are taking the case very seriously. We want to get to the bottom of it and bring those responsible to justice," Romero said.

Robert Lagasse was hit while riding a bike on Merrimack Street about 5:57 p.m. He was struck from behind by a gray 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee that left the scene, but a witness was able to get the license plate.

Police later determined the car had been rented to Michael Mehrmann, 38, of Bradford. Mehrmann told police he had lent the vehicle to Traficante.

The Jeep was recovered the following morning at the Hudson, N.H., home of Edward Couture, who police also have called a person of interest in the case. Couture was interviewed by police and provided phone records he said showed he was at home at the time of the crash and that he had received numerous calls from Traficante during the afternoon and evening hours.

"Couture provided documentation that at this point seems to support his initial statements to us," Romero said. "But this case has taken so many twists and turns we are not ruling anybody out."

But Lillian Lagasse hopes the person who killed her son comes forward.

"But I doubt whoever did it will come forward,'' she said. ..News Source.. by Jim Patten


MA- DA remains mum on three long-standing investigations

3-1-2009 Massachusetts:

Deborah Hoare, 39, was struck and killed by a snowplow driver who did not stop as she walked along Route 114 in North Andover in December of 2007.

Robert Lagasse, 44, was struck and killed by a Jeep as he rode his bicycle on Merrimack Street in Lawrence in October of last year.

And Mary Pina, 50, and her 6-year-old nephew Daquan Davis died in a house fire in Haverhill last November. One fire official said the fire was no accident.

There is a common thread linking these four tragic deaths — a lack of willingness by Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett to provide any information about the investigations or their progress. In some cases, the families have been kept in the dark as well.

For John Bacigalupo, it's been two months since he has heard from Blodgett's office about the death of his sister Mary Pina.

"I would expect the district attorney to at least tell me what the results of the investigation are," said Bacigalupo, during a telephone interview from his home on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Evidence has been seized to try and link the crimes to suspects in both Hoare's and Lagasse's deaths. Lawrence police seized the snow plow they believe struck and killed Hoare from a Methuen man in January 2008 and sent blood taken from the blade to the state police crime lab for testing.

In the Lagasse case, investigators know who rented the Jeep, who had possession of it and where it was found, but no one has come forward to admit they were driving it at the time of the accident, Lawrence police Chief John Romero said.

And in the case of the Warren Street fire, Haverhill deputy fire Chief Lewis Poore said the cause of the fire "was not accidental."

However, the only response from the district attorney's office since the fire has been that "it's under investigation."

When asked for comment about the seemingly slow progress and lack of information on these cases, Blodgett issued this two-sentence statement: "These investigations are active and ongoing and they are being conducted in a professional and thorough manner. We are using all of the resources available to us in an attempt to bring these investigations to a conclusion."

Lagasse's brother Randall, while acknowledging the slow pace of the probe into his brother's death, said the family remains confident that the case will be solved.

"I just want to say that although the investigation of the hit-and-run death of my brother Bobby appears to be slow going, we as a family know that sometimes solving such a case does not always happen overnight," Lagasse said. "We know that the case is still open and being investigated and we, along with others behind the scenes, are working diligently to assure that the person/persons responsible for Bobby's death will not go unpunished."

Romero said investigators completely understand the concerns of the families. He said the lawyer for one of those involved in the Lagasse case has refused to make his client available to talk to police.

"He has been holding us at arms' length," Romero said. "We need to move past that and consider what other options are available to us."

Attempts to reach a member of Hoare's family for comment for this story were unsuccessful. ..News Source.. by Jim Patten


Woman accused of assault at Methuen bar

4-11-2009 Massachusetts:

METHUEN, Apr 11, 2009 (The Eagle-Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A woman described as a "person of interest" in the October hit-and-run death of a Lawrence man was arrested after she assaulted another woman in a Broadway bar Thursday night, police said.

Charlene Traficante, 34, of 26 Budron Ave., Salem, N.H., was charged with assault and battery and assault with a dangerous weapon during the incident at Paul's Pub, 91 Broadway, about 11:10 p.m.

Officers Herb Stacy and Joseph Rynne were sent to the bar after police received a 911 call during which dispatchers could hear yelling in the background, police said.

Officers spoke to the victim who said she has had a problem with Traficante over dating men known to both of them. She told police Traficante began yelling at her over the bar and grabbed her hair over the bar, police said.

She told police that Traficante had a glass beer bottle in her hand and when they separated, Traficante threw the beer bottle at her but missed, police said.

The officers found a large clump of hair on the floor of the bar, which the victim said was hers, police said.

Lawrence police have sought, without success, to speak with Traficante about the Oct. 16, 2008, hit-and-run death of Robert Lagasse, 43, of 77 S. Union St., in Lawrence.

Lagasse was riding a bicycle on Merrimack Street about 6 p.m. to buy beer.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee that struck Lagasse did not stop, but a cab driver who was behind it gave police a description of the vehicle and told police there were two people in it.

The Jeep was recovered the day after the incident at the home of a Hudson, N.H., man who is an acquaintance of Traficante.

A Bradford man who rented the Jeep told police he had loaned it to Traficante.

The investigation into the fatal crash continues, police said. ..Source..

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