Man charged in fatal beating of resident at Pittsfield Family YMCA


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PITTSFIELD — When police responded to Joseph Wirtes' apartment at 2:22 a.m. Sunday, they found him unconscious, pale and bleeding from the nose, but still breathing and showing a pulse.

Wirtes, 44, later died at the hospital apparently from injuries he sustained, including internal bleeding.

Brian Signor, 27, allegedly still had blood on his hands when he was arrested on a charge connected to that death.

Signor, whose address is listed in court documents as homeless in Pittsfield, is being held on $50,000 bail on a charge of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury following his arraignment in Central Berkshire District Court on Monday.

The charge against Signor could change pending the results of Wirtes' autopsy, which is expected to be conducted Monday, according to Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Gregory Barry.

Signor's attorney, Jill Sheldon, argued for a bail of $1,000, noting that he and his family do not have the means to pay $50,000 and that Signor would be able to live with family in the area in the meantime.

A message left with Sheldon seeking further comment was not immediately returned.

According to Pittsfield Police, they, along with firefighters and emergency medical services, responded to the Pittsfield Family YMCA building on North Street, apartment 323, for a medical call of an unresponsive male.

The caller told police she and Signor were both in the apartment with Wirtes earlier and had all been drinking heavily.

She told police she saw Signor punch and choke Wirtes before she left the apartment

She returned a short time later to find Wirtes unconscious and bleeding. Signor was gone, according to her.

Another witness told police it sounded like fighting coming from Wirtes' apartment at about 1:45 a.m.

Police obtained surveillance footage from the YMCA that shows Signor coming and going from the apartment. It also shows the 911 caller enter the apartment after Signor left.

No one else was seen exiting the apartment until police arrived, and no one else was in the apartment when police got there, according to court files.

Wirtes was transported to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment of injuries that included a broken eye-socket and nose, cuts and bruises to his face as well as internal bleeding.

Police said it appears that Wirtes died from the bleeding, but the official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner during the autopsy.

Signor was arrested without incident about 4:50 p.m. Sunday. His clothes were confiscated and appeared to be the same as those he was wearing in the surveillance video and a presumptive test showed the presence of blood on Signor's hands.

While Signor declined to give a formal statement, police said he did become emotional and admitted he and Wirtes had been involved in a fight.

Police said Signor has a lengthy criminal record that includes charges of assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer and armed robbery.

In September 2014, Signor was sentenced to 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to charges including larceny, receiving stolen property, vandalizing property, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on a police officer.

In September 2011, Signor was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to a larceny charge.

Signor's bail in his new case was set without prejudice, meaning it can be appealed to the Superior Court.

Signor is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Oct. 20.

Based on the seriousness of the underlying charge, the case may be submitted to a grand jury for consideration to be transferred into Superior Court.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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