Hannah Nazareth: Mother frustrated by lack of closure in daughter's death


PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire District Attorney's Office and the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner say the investigation into the cause of Hannah Nazareth's death remains open.

This week, District Attorney David F. Capeless said the medical examiner was unable to determine what killed the 11-year-old last summer, "due in great part to the decomposition" of the body.

Neither outfit would characterize the intensity of the investigation or assign chances that conclusive data may one day emerge in the case. Both agencies pointed to the other when asked.

"The ME defers to the DA in open investigations," said Felix Brown, a spokesman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

"I think those are questions best directed at the ME," said Frederick A. Lantz, the spokesman for the district attorney.

Capeless also confirmed this week that Hannah's father, Anthony Nazareth, likely hid the girl's death for as long as a month before he died of a heroin overdose. Hannah's body showed no signs of trauma, according to the DA.

Meanwhile, the girl's mother, Laurie Nazareth, 51, of Tampa, Fla., repeatedly said "I want to know" how Hannah died during an emotional Eagle interview on Tuesday.

"I couldn't breathe today just thinking about it," Laurie said. "I try to keep telling myself she went to sleep and there was no pain, but when I think about the 'what ifs?' I want to curl in a ball."

She added, "When she left me, I never thought it would be the last time I'd ever see her."

Estranged but still legally married to Anthony when both he and Hannah were found dead in a Plunkett Street on Aug. 3, Laurie said she "has her suspicions" about how the girl died.

Anthony, a recovered crack addict, relapsed into drug and alcohol use sometime in late June, based on receipts found in the apartment and a number of Eagle interviews with people who knew him.

Laurie said she believes Anthony wouldn't have wanted Hannah to see him using drugs, and she thinks he may have unintentionally given her a lethal dose of the sedative Seroquel, which he used to help him sleep in his drug and alcohol recovery.

When he realized she was dead, Laurie said, Anthony would have resolved to commit suicide.

"He couldn't live without her," Laurie said. "He couldn't live with himself. And he couldn't face me or his mother."

She added, "He was not aggressive. He was not abusive. He certainly wouldn't have wanted her to know he was getting high. And Seroquel is a powerful sedative."

Sometime in mid-July, Anthony cut his wrists in a suicide attempt. He was seen by several witnesses with bloodied bandages about his wrists, and Laurie said she listened to voicemails on his phone from nurses and psychiatrists addressing the matter.

Throughout these events, Anthony told anyone who asked that Hannah was in New York in his mother's custody.

Following Anthony's death, two people allegedly entered the Nazareth apartment and stole electronics, Anthony's wallet and other items.

Meanwhile, two people were arraigned this week on charges they stole from the Nazareth apartment, while the father and daughter lay dead.

Jodie M. Lehmann, 50, of Pittsfield, admitted to police that she and Michael Blowe, 54, entered the apartment and found Anthony Nazareth dead, but denied taking anything, according to court documents.

The pair was later spotted on surveillance video using a bank card belonging to Nazareth, police said. She said Nazareth had given her his bank card and PIN, police said.

It was Blowe's arraignment on Monday which prompted the DA to release the ME's observations on Hannah, more than six months after the deaths.

Laurie — who has been forthrightly critical of the DA's office for "stonewalling" her on information and failing to notify her of the deaths before the news media, so that she found out about it on the news and social media — said these revelations were "nothing new."

She was listening to voicemails left on Anthony's phone before and after his death, and supplied police with the names of people involved.

Her hopes for closure remain low.

"They're not going to be able to find out," Laurie said. "I think it's done. I worked in an [emergency room] for 20 years. I know about decomposition. It had been too long, and anything that was there that might have told the story had long since dissipated."

Reporting from Eagle staffer Bob Dunn was used in this report.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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