NORTH ADAMS - The North Adams man accused of murdering 84-year-old Ellen DePaoli pleaded not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court on Monday morning to single counts of first-degree murder and larceny of a motor vehicle.
David A. Delratez, 41, of Walker Street, is being held without bail in Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction. Police allege he assaulted DePaoli, beating and stabbing her to death in her home. DePaoli was found at her 409 Walker St. home by police on Tuesday, Sept. 17, after they responded to a 911 call reporting her death.
The case, which was heard by Judge Michael J. Ripps, was continued until Oct. 1 for a discovery hearing, and a bind over hearing was set for Oct. 25.
Delratez, who was shackled and kept behind a glass partition, did not speak during the short proceeding. A dozen members of the DePaoli family, who declined to comment on the hearing, remained stoic during the arraignment.
Attorney Nathaniel Green entered the not-guilty pleas on Delratez's behalf and also not-guilty pleas on unrelated counts of breaking and entering, malicious destruction of property under $250 and the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The unrelated charges are the result of two alleged incidents on Friday, Sept. 13. Police say Delratez took his ex-wife's car without her permission and broke into her home at 512 Walker St. in Clarksburg.
According to a probable cause report filed with the court by State Police Det. Edward A. Culver, members of the North Adams Police Department and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department obtained a search warrant for Ellen DePaoli's home on Wednesday, Sept. 18 and upon entering at 9:44 a.m., "immediately observed a number of stab wounds to her body, as well as bruising and swelling to her face." The report also states officers did not find any evidence of forced entry into the home or any evidence of a struggle.
The state Chief Medical Examiner's office determined Thursday that DePaoli's death was the result of "both a blunt force injury to the head and a sharp force injury to the torso."
According to Culver's report, Ellen's son, James DePaoli, identified Delratez as an acquaintance who frequently visited the house. DePaoli also alleged Delratez had taken his "four-wheel RV" without permission and also had reportedly stolen the vehicle of another acquaintance on Sept. 13.
DePaoli also informed police that his mother's 2005 Ford Taurus sedan was missing, as well as the purse where she kept the car keys, at which point police began searching for the car..
Court documents show that Delratez once lived at 512 Walker St., just 200 feet east of the DePaoli home in Clarksburg, an address he gave to police last week. Documents also list Delratez as residing with his mother on River Street in North Adams, and list him as having prior mental health issues as well as drug and alcohol dependency.
Delratez was arrested in Bennington, Vt. on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 19, after police located DePaoli's car on Valentine Street. The report states officers observed a knife inside the car, which appeared to be "consistent with the type of weapon used to inflict the stab wounds on Mrs. DePaoli."
After surveilling the area, Delratez was seen by officers and arrested at gunpoint.
While in police custody in Bennington, Delratez reportedly said: "I loved that old woman. I hurt that old woman. I could see it in her eyes." He also identified himself as being a family friend, who had often visited with DePaoli and her adult son, James. He said he frequently ate dinner at the house and stayed overnight on occasion.
Delratez reportedly denied killing DePaoli during police interviews, saying that he had entered the DePaoli residence on Sept. 17 after being called in by two men. He said he found DePaoli already wounded and was forced by the men to drive DePaoli's car to Pittsfield and later to Albany and Troy, N.Y. He claimed to be drunk for two to three days after arriving in New York, until driving himself to Bennington, where he stayed with a friend until the time of his arrest.
Police say Delratez also claimed to know one of the assailants, whom he referred to as a drug dealer named "Jim Jim."
Delratez's father, Andrew Todd, is currently serving a mandatory life sentence in MCI-Ceder Junction maximum security prison for the 1983 murder of his girlfriend Tammy Peckham. Todd was convicted of killing Peckham, 18, by firing a shotgun through a window of the former Modern Aluminum Anodizing Corp. on State Road. Peckham was shot in the chest, neck and shoulders as she stood at her work station.