Mom's questions linger months after daughter's mysterious death in Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — More than five months have gone by since Laurie Nazareth's 11-year-old daughter and estranged husband were found dead in a Plunkett Street apartment. She wants answers and complains about being "stonewalled" by local authorities.
"It's ridiculous what I've been through with these people," Laurie Nazareth told The Eagle. "It's been hell. I cannot get one bit of information. I know [city police and the District Attorney's Office] have ideas about what happened, but they won't answer anything. It's like pulling teeth."
Speaking to The Eagle via phone from her home in Tallahassee, Fla., Laurie Nazareth added, "I think they just want me to accept that I'm never going to find out what happened."
The bodies of Anthony Nazareth, 47, and his and Laurie's 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, were found by police conducting a well-being check on Aug. 3.
A drug overdose is suspected to have killed Anthony sometime after Aug. 1, based on preliminary toxicology reports referenced by the Berkshire District Attorney's office on Aug. 4.
Hannah's body showed no signs of trauma, according to the DA's office.
However, Hannah had been dead in the apartment for as long as a month, The Eagle reported on Aug. 30 after conducting interviews with police, the mother of Hannah's best friend and the 72 Plunkett St. landlord.
Both deaths officially remain "undetermined pending further testing" by state employees of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Boston.
Remembered by friends and family as a vivacious girl, wise beyond her years and blessed with a good sense of humor, Hannah Nazareth attended Morningside Community School and danced in the Youth Alive Step Team.
Laurie Nazareth told The Eagle she has been in touch with an attorney, who she hopes can press local authorities for more information on the deaths.
"I want to know what happened to my daughter, and I'll sue somebody if that's what it takes," Nazareth said. "[Local authorities] have not contacted me once about anything. The day after it happened, I had already heard about it on the news and on Facebook, and they never contacted me. I had to call them. They said, 'Our first priority today was to call you.' From the very start to the present, it's been this way."
A representative of the District Attorney's Office who wished to remain unnamed said they sympathized with Laurie's experience, but the ball remains in the court of the chief medical examiner in Boston.
The ME has yet to turn out a report on the deaths. Autopsies were completed and Hannah's body turned over to Laurie Nazareth in early September.
The Eagle contacted the ME last week requesting comment on the case.
"To determine the cause and manner of death, medical examiners conduct detailed forensic investigations that are painstaking and thorough in nature," said Felix Browne, spokesman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. "Each investigation is unique and medical examiners' top priority is delivering an accurate determination while making every effort possible to provide grieving families with the information they need about their loved one."
Meanwhile, retired Massachusetts State Police Det. Lt. William J. Powers, now on the faculty at Boston University's Graduate Medical Sciences School, had this to say about the case.
"If I learned nothing else as an investigator, it was to rely on medical expertise in cases like this," Powers said. "Every case is fact-specific and there are so many variables that will affect a medical examiner's decisions as to time, manner and cause of death."
Nobody would speculate on whether the ME will indeed be able to pinpoint a cause of death in Hannah's case, considering the variables involved and the considerable length of time she had been dead before being discovered.
Little is known about Anthony Nazareth's activities during the month of July, throughout which Hannah's body remained in the apartment.
The Nazareths' landlord, William McGrath, said he found large quantities of coffee grinds and moth balls in the apartment — which he saw as an attempt by Anthony to cover up the odor of decomposition. On Aug. 3, authorities removing the bodies donned hazmat suits.
The building's other tenants saw Anthony periodically in July, and he was also seen at his regular addiction support group meetings.
Other questions remain.
Laurie said Anthony's wallet and phone were missing from the apartment when the bodies were found, and the phone is still in use by unknown parties. She knows because she can still check the voicemail, where she has found strange messages, possibly related to drugs.
"There is strange stuff happening," Laurie said. "It was a prepaid phone and someone is still in possession of it. Police tell me they can't shut it off or track it. Are you kidding me? Find the people who have it — they're suspects — and say, 'Do you know that's a dead man's phone and how the hell did you come into possession of it?'"
She added, "Don't you think that's suspicious? I think someone helped Anthony [commit suicide]. I know with all my heart Anthony wouldn't have hurt [Hannah]. But I need to know what happened. I need them to tell me. They're the investigators."
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