Sunday September 25, 2011
PITTSFIELD -- Friends say he lived in fear.
In the months before his murder, those closest to David Glasser say the would-be witness against a Hells Angel with a violent reputation had turned into a nervous wreck.
"He was getting really scattered and frantic the past couple of weeks. He couldn't even sit down -- he'd pace. You could see the fear written across his face," said Rick Reynolds, Glasser's longtime friend. "He was openly, admittedly terrified."
Friends and acquaintances of Glasser's say prosecutors ignored his pleas for protection as a witness, even as he was poised to testify against a man who allegedly had threatened to kill him for cooperating with police.
Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless said his office took steps to ensure Glasser's safety. Capeless described a man who said he felt safe in his apartment, preferring to stay in his Pittsfield home rather than relocate at the suggestion of police.
In either case, Glasser had reason to be afraid.
According to court records, Adam Lee Hall, a member of the Berkshire County chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, already had beaten Glasser with a baseball bat -- and that was just when Hall thought Glasser had stolen a carburetor from him.
After that 2009 incident, authorities persuaded Glasser to become a witness against Hall on drug, gun and assault charges. That prompted more threats from Hall, who later was accused by police of setting Glasser up to take the fall for a bogus armed robbery in an effort to keep him from testifying.
Fifteen days ago, Glasser's body was found along with two of his friends, buried in a boulder-covered trench on private property in Becket. The friends -- fellow Pittsfield residents Edward S. Frampton and Robert T. Chadwell -- were killed because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to authorities.
The discovery of the bodies came just nine days before Glasser had been scheduled to testify Sept. 19 against Hall in Berkshire Superior Court in connection with the assault and framing incidents.
Police since have arrested Hall -- a 34-year-old Peru resident -- and two alleged accomplices. The three have been charged with three counts of murder, witness intimidation and kidnapping, and a fourth suspect has been charged with helping to bury the bodies.
Glasser's murder has sparked an outcry from the victims' families, who say the District Attorney's Office and police didn't do enough to protect their witness.
"They never did anything to help David," said Donna Randolph, whom Glasser called "Mom" and talked with at least once a week.
Glasser was estranged from his family at a young age, according to Randolph, and no one in the family could be located for comment by The Eagle. However, Randolph and others close to Glasser said he had complained to them that he had gone to authorities and asked for witness protection as recently as a month before his murder.
"He came to my house right after he'd been to the police one of those times," said Randolph, 67, of Pittsfield.
Randolph said Glasser, 44, had been told by officers that nothing could be done and to let police know if anything happened.
The Pittsfield Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police referred questions to the Berkshire County district attorney.
Capeless said he's never denied a "reasonable request for protection of a witness." He insists his office did everything it could to protect Glasser, including relocating him twice at its suggestion.
Capeless said that after each of the two relocations -- which were intended to be temporary -- Glasser had opted to return home, saying he felt safe.
"On each occasion he said, ‘Look, I feel OK now and I'd like to go back to my apartment,' " Capeless said. "Ultimately it is his decision. We can't make witnesses relocate."
Capeless said it's normal for witnesses to want to stay in their homes.
"They want to control their lives." Capeless said.
But Glasser's friends say he only stayed in his apartment because he had nowhere else to go.
"He wasn't there because he wanted to be," Randolph said.
The state has a witness protection fund, which pays for lodging, living and transportation expenses. District attorneys can submit petitions to fund the relocation of a key witness. Capeless said his office never submitted such a petition.
Capeless declined to go into detail about his office's two temporary relocations of Glasser. Capeless wouldn't say when they took place, where Glasser was relocated to, or how long he stayed.
Capeless said that speaking more about steps his office took to protect Glasser could compromise the safety of other witnesses against Hall who have opted to relocate.
But no one who knew Glasser said they had heard anything about his being relocated by the District Attorney's Office.
Asked about that, Capeless said: "People aren't supposed to know about it. That's the point."
But Glasser's friends say they don't believe Capeless.
"It's not true," Randolph said. "They never, never relocated David. They never did anything to help David. He would have let me know. He was like my son. We were very close. He would have told my husband and me one way or another."
Likewise, Glasser's friend Rick Reynolds -- along with three other friends contacted by The Eagle who asked not to be identified -- said Glasser hadn't been relocated and never got the help he was asking for.
The Eagle got some insight into Glasser's psyche in 2005.
In an eloquently worded letter to the editor published that year, Glasser said in the first sentence that he was "mentally and physically challenged." He went on to write that he had diabetes, which "sometimes mimics being drunk," and that he had been "wrongfully fired" from jobs and treated unfairly in other instances because of people's "misunderstanding" of the issue.
Glasser's main point in the letter was that he wanted to bring "an awareness of how we treat each other." He made no other reference to his mental condition in the letter.
Capeless said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on Glasser's mental capacity.
Randolph said she wasn't clear about the nature of Glasser's challenges, but said he "functioned a little bit slowly."
Glasser did, however, understand the danger he was in, Randolph said.
"Oh, he understood," she said. "He was absolutely terrified. There's no other way to put it."
The terror that filled Glasser's life is well documented.
According to court records, during the 2009 baseball-bat incident, Hall beat Glasser over a missing carburetor -- leaving his face black, blue and swollen -- and forced him to sign the title of his truck over to Hall. Then, according to the records, Hall made Glasser drive himself to Berkshire Medical Center in Hall's Hummer with Hall in the passenger seat.
Before Glasser got out of the car, Hall told him that if he went to the police, he would be killed, according to a transcript of an interview police conducted with Glasser.
Trooper Dale Gero responded to the emergency room at BMC after the staff reported a suspected assault and battery.
After being treated at BMC, Glasser was taken to the Cheshire State Police barracks for an interview, in which he recounted the incident. According to Gero's report, at the end of the interview, Glasser asked if the state police had a witness protection program, and he told the trooper he was afraid of Hall retaliating against him.
According to the report, Glasser was escorted out of the barracks and told to contact "the police if anything further happened."
Two days later, Glasser came in for a follow-up interview with investigators. Just before that interview, Glasser again told police he believed Hall would kill him, according to police records.
Hall was arrested that day and was released three months later on a $50,000 bond. Glasser, meanwhile, was living in the Linden Street apartment he shared with Frampton.
Glasser's name doesn't appear in court records again until Hall allegedly framed Glasser for armed robbery in New York state on Aug. 14, 2010.
According to police, Hall and his associates planted a gun and other evidence in Glasser's truck in an effort to connect him to the supposed robbery.
Pittsfield lawyer Alexander Schmulsky was appointed to defend Glasser against the charges. They met in a jail cell in the basement of Central Berkshire District Court.
"He was concerned for his safety," Schmulsky said. "He was scared."
A few days later, Schmulsky got a call from the District Attorney's Office saying the charges had been dropped. Schmulsky said Glasser was in the hands of the DA's office after that and that he never heard from his client again. Meanwhile, Hall was re-arrested. He was released on bail in March of this year, on a $250,000 bond.
Even though Hall had been released pending his trial, Capeless said Glasser had stopped feeling unsafe when he started working with police as a witness, adding that law enforcement had been in "regular" contact with him.
Capeless declined to be more specific about the nature of the contact, but said that each time officers checked in with Glasser, Glasser told them he was fine.
"After Glasser became further involved with this office, he did not express that he felt unsafe," Capeless said. "Anytime he was staying in his apartment, he remained there because he felt safe and he wanted to be in his home."
Friends strongly disagree with the district attorney's assessment of Glasser's feelings.
They say Glasser -- known to mind his own business -- was manipulated into testifying against Hall.
"He didn't want to testify," Reynolds said. "He said he was being pressured. I think they [DA's office] used that he was angry about being jumped, being beaten, having his truck taken [to get him to testify]. It hurt his pride. I think the police used that to say, ‘Do something about it.' "
Reynolds said Glasser also believed he might be charged with possession of cocaine if he didn't testify, a notion Capeless strongly disagrees with.
"He felt like he was in a no-win situation," Reynolds said.
Capeless denies that Glasser was pressured into doing anything he didn't want to do. He said Glasser understood that by testifying against Hall, he would be protecting himself and others, effectively ensuring that Hall would go to prison.
"People have to understand that if they don't come forward, these kinds of people will be walking the street," Capeless said.
Still, Glasser's former lawyer said Capeless' job is about more than just putting people behind bars.
"The district attorney's only job isn't to win the trial, it's to provide justice for the people of Berkshire County," Schmulsky said. "Where's the justice for Mr. Glasser today?"
Capeless said his office did the best it could with the information it had at the time. He said it's easy to second guess after the fact.
Randolph, meanwhile, said her last visit with Glasser is burned in her memory.
"I didn't see him but for a couple of minutes the last time," she said. "He hugged me and I hugged him, and he said, ‘I love you, Ma,' and I told him I loved him. I miss him. Every day."
To reach Ned Oliver:
On Sept. 10, the bodies of three missing men were found buried on private property in Becket. Four men have been charged in the case.
David Glasser, 44, of Pittsfield, was scheduled to testify against Peru resident Adam Lee Hall in Berkshire Superior Court on Sept. 19. Glasser and two friends disappeared between Aug. 27 and 28 from his Linden Street apartment. Authorities allege that Glasser was killed so that he couldn't testify against Hall on drug, gun and assault charges.
Edward S. Frampton, 58, shared an apartment with Glasser on Linden Street. He was with Glasser there at the time the three men disappeared. Authorities say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Robert T. Chadwell, 47, was a neighbor of Glasser and Frampton's. He was hanging out at their apartment when the three went missing. Authorities said he, too, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Adam Lee Hall, 34, of Peru, has been charged with murdering Glasser, Frampton and Chadwell in order to prevent Glasser from testifying at his upcoming trial in Berkshire Superior Court. According to police, Hall is the third in command of the Berkshire County chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. In addition to the murder charges, Hall has several pending trials in which he faces numerous drug, weapons and theft charges. Glasser was scheduled to provide key testimony.
David Chalue, 44, of Springfield and North Adams, also is charged with the murder of the three men. Police say Hall enlisted Chalue to help with the abduction, murder and disposal of the three men's bodies. Police say Chalue is not a member of the Hells Angels, although acquaintances have described him as an associate of the gang.
Caius D. Veiovis, 31, of Pittsfield, also is charged with the murder of the three men. Veiovis formerly was known as Roy Gutfinski. Police say Hall enlisted Veiovis to help abduct, murder and dispose of the three men's bodies. Police say Veiovis is not a member of the Hells Angels.
David Casey, 62, of Canaan, N.Y., is charged with using his excavator to help Hall bury the bodies of the three men. Casey has told police that Hall intimidated and "scared" him into helping with the burial.
July 21, 2009: Adam Lee Hall purportedly lures David Glasser to his house in Peru, where he allegedly beat Glasser with a baseball bat after accusing him of stealing a car part.
July 23, 2009: The Berkshire County Drug Task Force arrests Hall on drug, gun and assault charges after interviews with Glasser and a search of Hall's home.
Sept. 30, 2009: Hall, a ranking member of the local chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, is released from the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction on $50,000 bond.
Aug. 14, 2010: Hall allegedly frames Glasser, a Pittsfield resident, for armed robbery in New York state to discredit him as a witness in an upcoming trial against Hall on drug, gun and assault charges.
September 2010: Hall requests a meeting with the FBI, during which he offers to become an informant against the Hells Angels in exchange for leniency in sentencing for his pending cases. The offer is rejected.
Nov. 29, 2010: Hall and two alleged accomplices are indicted on charges they pinned the phony robbery on Glasser.
March 15: Hall is released on $250,000 bond after the local chapter of the Hells Angels posted its clubhouse in Lee as surety, according to police.
Aug. 27-28: Glasser and two friends -- Edward Frampton and Robert Chadwell -- disappear from Glasser and Frampton's Linden Street apartment in Pittsfield.
Sept. 10: Police discover Glasser, Chadwell and Frampton's bodies buried in a trench on private property in Becket. Hall and two alleged accomplices are charged with the triple murder.
Sept. 12: Hall, David Chalue and Caius Veiovis are arraigned on three counts each of murder, kidnapping and witness intimidation.
Sept. 19: Police charge a fourth person, David Casey, with three counts each of accessory after the fact to murder, kidnapping and witness intimidation for allegedly using his excavator to bury the bodies of Glasser, Chadwell and Frampton.
The Berkshire Eagle has redacted the street addresses, social security numbers, and phone numbers for purposes of publication.