From the region.
Assault charges against police officer dismissed
WORCESTER - An assault and battery charge lodged against a Worcester police officer by her sister has been dismissed.
Worcester Police Lt. Jane F. McGrath, 53, of Paxton, had been charged with assault and battery in a domestic dispute with her sister, Ann M. Hehir of Auburn, after they argued about medical care for their mother. Ms. Hehir alleged that Lt. McGrath pushed into her home and bumped her with her shoulder.
The charges were dismissed on Friday.
According to court records, the complaint was dismissed after Assistant District Attorney Michael Luzzo interviewed Ms. Hehir, and determined she no longer wanted to proceed with the complaint.
"The commonwealth feels it would be in the interests of fairness and justice to dismiss the case, given the lack of evidence and injury, along with the alleged victim's desires," he wrote.
Board, administrator agree on 3-year pact
BARRE - After four months of closed-door negotiations, selectmen and Town Administrator Heather R. Lemieux, 36, have agreed on a three-year contract.
Ms. Lemieux had served as acting town administrator since David E. Battistoni retired July 1.
She was the top choice among three finalists for the job when selectmen appointed her at a 6 a.m. meeting on June 26.
That 6 a.m. meeting began with an executive session that selectmen said was needed for "contract negotiations." After the closed-door session they voted in open session to appoint Ms. Lemieux town administrator, subject to agreeing to a contract with her. The agreement was reached last week.
Effective Nov. 5, the town administrator will earn $59,000 annually. Her pay increases to $60,000 in year two and will be $61,000 the third year.
In an interview yesterday, Ms. Lemieux said capital planning for the town and updating personnel rules and procedures rank among her top priorities.
She earned a master's degree in public policy from the College of William & Mary and a bachelor's degree from Providence College, her resume shows.
Selectman Kathryn M. Inman, the board's chairman, said she is "absolutely delighted" about the appointment of Ms. Lemieux.
In an interview yesterday, the chairman said Ms. Lemieux "knows every aspect of the job. With her background in public administration, we know we will be taken care of."
While she served as acting administrator, Ms. Lemieux' salary was $55,000 per year.
Councilor accepts Monson chief's job
SOUTHBRIDGE - Councilman Laurent R. McDonald said he has accepted Monson selectmen's offer to become that town's fire chief.
Mr. McDonald said he will start his new job on Dec. 1.
He said he's buying a home in Monson, and intends to resign from the council upon his move from Southbridge.
Mr. McDonald, whose term ends in June, said there won't be a need for Southbridge to hold a special election to replace him because, per the town charter, a special election is to be called within 30 days of his vacancy unless a regular town election occurs within 180 days.
That would make Dec. 29 the cutoff, and Mr. McDonald said he does not intend to resign before then. He said he intends to attend two to three more council meetings.
Police say woman set fire to her home
EAST BROOKFIELD - A Spencer woman was arraigned Friday on charges she tried to burn down her family home on Greenville Street, Spencer.
Spencer Fire Chief Robert P. Parsons said a passer-by called in the fire about 3:15 p.m. Nov. 5.
Firefighters found five different places where small fires had started: one on the staircase, two in the attic and two in a second-floor bedroom. The house was locked and no one was home, a police report said.
Chief Parsons said the fire was quickly put out, but smoke and water caused about $50,000 damage.
A man had driven by the house a short time before the fire started and was nearly struck by a small reddish car that was quickly coming out of the driveway at 100 Greenville Street, according to court documents.
The man told police he looked at the driver, a short blonde woman wearing glasses and clad in scrubs, the report said.
Officer Norman Hodgerney wrote in the report that Wendy A. Spahl, 39, who lives at the house with her husband and daughter, fit the description. Police used an accelerant sniffing dog that "hit" on several areas indicating a substance had been used to start the fire. Investigators determined the fire was arson.
The report does not indicate a motive.
Ms. Spahl was arrested and charged with arson of a dwelling and burning personalty. She was arraigned in Western Worcester District Court in East Brookfield on Friday and released on $1,000 bail. She is due back in court Jan. 24.
Pair of 18-year-olds arrested in car breaks
WEBSTER - A pair of 18-year-old men who allegedly broke into nine cars this week were arrested after arousing the suspicion of police officers on Sunday.
Christian Fuller and Christopher Lapan, both of 59 N. Main St., pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Dudley District Court to nine counts of breaking and entering vehicles during the nighttime, eight counts of receiving stolen property valued at under than $250, and a count each of receiving stolen property valued at more than $250 and conspiracy.
Mr. Fuller and Mr. Lapan were ordered held on $100 bail each. Their pretrial hearings are Jan. 8.
On Sunday morning, police went to Nelson Street after a resident whose car had been burglarized told them he had chased the suspects down the street. The resident said he lost sight of the men near Morris Street.
Officer Daniel DiFusco said he spoke to Mr. Fuller and Mr. Lapan on Park Avenue. They allegedly told the officer they were headed to Price Chopper.
Later, Officer Timothy Moran said he spoke to Mr. Fuller and Mr. Lapan at a Red Box movie vendor at Walgreen's. The men allegedly told the officer they had come from Price Chopper, where they had cashed in cans.
But Officer DiFusco, who arrived a short time later, said the men did not have cans when he spoke to them earlier.
Mr. Fuller had a child's backpack, police said. The men allegedly said they found it in the road. Mr. Fuller told police that everything inside the backpack belonged to him, which the investigators said made no sense considering he said he had just found it.
Mr. Fuller allowed police to search the bag, which contained a knife, three cellphones, a gift card, debit cards with other people's names, $250 and lottery tickets. Police said all of the items were stolen from cars in the Nelson Street area.
A resident whose car appeared to have been broken into said the bag belonged to her young son, police said
Mr. Lapan admitted breaking into the cars, as well as others in the Racicot and North Main streets area late Friday into Saturday, police said.
State gives push to Prouty upgrade
SPENCER - The effort to renovate David Prouty High School advanced this week when the Massachusetts School Building Authority voted to move the project into the "schematic design phase."
The proposed project includes an addition along with repairs to fix deficiencies in the roof, windows, plumbing and wiring.
State Treasurer Steven Grossman, who is also chairman of the school building authority, made the announcement with MSBA Director Jack McCarthy.
"This approval brings the Prouty High School project much closer to fruition," Mr. Grossman said in a news release.
After search, police arrest alleged dealer
SOUTHBRIDGE - Police alleged a 39-year-old local man they arrested had 137 grams of cocaine.
Axel Y. Ortiz, 609 Main St. Apt. 1L, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Dudley District Court of trafficking in cocaine. Mr. Ortiz was ordered held on $15,000 bail and had posted $5,000, court records said.
His pretrial hearing is Dec. 11. A Spanish interpreter has been requested.
On Friday, police detectives searched for narcotics at Mr. Ortiz's apartment, a police report said.
Mr. Ortiz and two women were inside the apartment.
In addition to the cocaine, police said, they also seized $3,812, packaging material, digital scales and a cutting agent. Mr. Ortiz allegedly admitted the narcotics and other materials recovered by detectives belonged to him.
Police say man had 70 illegal pills
WEBSTER - A local man was allegedly found in possession of nearly 70 prescription pills, police said.
Reymond Sojo Nieves, 26, of 3 Negus St., Apt. 1R, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Dudley District Court to five counts of possession to distribute Class E narcotics, possession of heroin and for an outstanding warrant. Mr. Nieves was ordered held on $300 bail. His pretrial hearing is Dec. 10.
Responding on Friday to Negus and Mechanic streets for a car in the road with a flat tire, police allegedly saw Mr. Nieves in a driveway. He was arrested without incident on the warrant inside an apartment, the police report said.
While inventorying his property, police allegedly found five different types of muscle relaxants and anxiety-control medications.
Police also said Mr. Nieves had nearly $700 and an object used for detecting the presence of drugs.
EcoTarium gets $500,000 grant
WORCESTER - The EcoTarium hopes to get a boost in its fundraising from a new matching gift program it announced yesterday with the Hanover Insurance Group Foundation.
The $500,000 grant will go toward the EcoTarium's Third Century Plan, a master plan that has resulted so far in several improvements and new exhibits at the Harrington Way site, including a renovated and re-imagined owl and eagle wildlife area that welcomes visitors from the upper parking lot. The "welcome experience" was just completed last month, and features fresh landscaping, walkways and fencing that gives the area a more open feel.
EcoTarium President Joseph P. Cox, who took over leadership of the institution Oct. 1, announced the new partnership with Hanover, which previously donated $1 million to the Third Century Plan. The new matching gift program is aimed at corporate donors, and will also support development of new educational outreach programs.
Mr. Cox, originally from England, spoke of the sense of wonder and amazement he felt visiting the Natural History Museum in London as a child and seeing specimen jars from Charles Darwin. He noted that the EcoTarium was founded in 1825, six years before Mr. Darwin left on his famous voyage to the Galapagos Islands. Back then it was called the Worcester Lyceum of Natural History.