Authorities suspect 'foul play' in Clarksburg woman's disappearance

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NORTH ADAMS — "From the beginning, we suspected foul play," Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said Friday, "and we have considered Joanne Ringer's husband, Chad Reidy, as the sole suspect."

Capeless delivered that assessment Friday morning during a news conference about Ringer, 39, who has been missing since March 2. Reidy, her husband, was found dead at the couple's Clarksburg home April 7.

"Reidy's apparent suicide," Capeless continued, "has not changed that view." 

The statement at Northern Berkshire District Court marked a significant development in the case of the missing woman, which police now acknowledge they consider a potential homicide. 

And it came moments after Reidy's ex-girlfriend was arraigned on charges she gave bogus information to police investigating the case.

Laura J. Reilly, 42, of Easthampton, pleaded not guilty to three counts of misleading a police officer.

Misleading investigators

According to court files obtained by The Eagle, Reidy reported his wife's disappearance on March 4, two days after she was supposed to start a new job for a taxi company in Easthampton. She never arrived for that shift.

Her abandoned Volkswagen Jetta was found on Exeter Street, Easthampton on March 6, about a half-mile from Reilly's Berkeley Street home.

Reilly's name was provided to investigators as someone who might have information connected to Ringer's disappearance.

"Ringer's now-deceased husband (Reidy) may have played a significant role in the disappearance of Ringer," police said in a probable cause report in Reilly's case. 

Investigators believe Reilly purposefully misled investigators, "in an attempt to hide actions by herself and/or Reidy as they directly relate to the disappearance of Joanne Ringer," according to court files.

The misleading information hindered the now seven-week old investigation, police said.

Reilly told investigators multiple times she could not remember many answers to questions posed to her, and blamed that lack of recall on prior drug use, according to police.

"However, investigators also noted that there were numerous occasions where Reilly remembered many innocuous details from those same time periods," police said.

Reilly gave four interviews to police; March 6 and 7, April 5 and April 13 and made inconsistent statements from one interview to the next, according to court files.

On March 6, Reilly told police she had met Reidy in Northampton on March 2, the day of Ringer's disappearance.

She said Reidy contacted her via text message and said he needed a ride, but she did not tell police that Reidy had contacted her from a phone that was not his.

She also failed to tell police in two subsequent interviews that Reidy had contacted her from a number not his own.

During the investigation, police determined that Reilly used her car to take Reidy from Northampton back to his Clarksburg home.

According to court documents, investigators believe Reidy disposed of Ringer's car in Easthampton in an effort to misdirect authorities.

In a March 6 interview, Reilly told police she had picked up Reidy in Northampton on March 2, drove him to his car parked in a different section of the city and followed him back to Clarksburg, implying the pair traveled in two different cars.

She said she stayed at Reidy's home until 4 or 5 p.m.

Evidence collected during the investigation contradicts that information, showing Reidy and Reilly in Northampton about 3:30 p.m. and back in the North Adams area between 4:30 and 5 p.m. and she likely stayed at Reidy's home until approximately 8 p.m. based on debit card transactions that show her in North Adams shortly after 8.

In a subsequent interview on March 7, Reilly allegedly contradicted her earlier statement and said she arrived at Reidy's home about 4:30 or 5 p.m. and stayed for about two hours before leaving.

In an April 5 interview, Reilly again changed her account and told police that after picking up Reidy, the two drove to Greenfield — information she hadn't provided in two earlier interviews. She then told police she couldn't remember if the trip to Greenfield was on March 2 or another day.

In an April 13, interview, six days after Reidy's suicide, Reilly told police she picked up Reidy in Northampton and drove him to Clarksburg in her car, not in two separate cars as she had first said.

Reilly told police Reidy had asked her to lie to them and say she had not given him a ride to Clarksburg.

She also told police she did not see Reidy on March 3, the day after Ringer failed to show up for her shift. Witness statements and surveillance video contradict that claim and show the pair together on that day in Chicopee.

In her April 5 interview, after being confronted with the evidence, Reilly admitted she and Reidy were together in Chicopee, but could not remember whether it was Friday or Saturday.

When Reilly was told by investigators her memory issues were glaring, she alleged responded, "Then glare."

Police went to Easthampton on Wednesday to place Reilly under arrest.

They knocked on her door about 10:26 a.m. and got no response and called her phone about the same time and got no answer.

Police contacted Reilly's ex-husband, who said he didn't know where she was and said she was probably avoiding police, "like the plague."

Police made more attempts that day to contact Reilly with no success, until shortly after 5 p.m. when she contacted police via text message and said her phone was shut off all day and she had just seen their messages.

Police obtained a warrant for Reilly's arrest on Thursday and she was taken into custody that evening.

Reilly's bail was set at $1,500, which was posted Friday.

She is due back in court on May 22 for a pretrial hearing. The case may be submitted to a Berkshire grand jury for potential transfer into Berkshire Superior Court.

A daughter's hope

Ringer's 19-year-old daughter, Savanah, spoke to the media following a press conference regarding the new details in her mother's disappearance.

"I still want her to come home alive. I still want to be able to hug her, but I do want closure," she said. "I don't want to lose sleep anymore not knowing what happened."

She said that hearing news that her mother's disappearance is a potential homicide was, "heartbreaking, but at the same time, I'd rather have closure than nothing at all."

Ringer acknowledged reports that her mother endured abuse from Reidy while they were together.

She said it was a relief to publicly disclose that alleged abuse, so that friends of the family would be able to have that information and decide on their own if they wanted to attend Reidy's funeral, which was Thursday, or support fundraising efforts on his family's behalf.

Ringer said she found about the abuse allegations through her mother's Facebook account, to which she has access.

According to reports, Clarksburg Police were dispatched last fall to Reidy's Halls Ground Road residence, which he purchased in October of 2016, prior to Ringer's disappearance.

Reidy called police on Nov. 7, "to speak with an officer regarding his girlfriend not wanting to leave the premises," according to the notes logged by a North Adams Police dispatcher at 6:16 p.m. that evening. 

A Clarksburg police officer responded to the scene responded and left 20 minutes later. 

It's unclear if a report was filed on the incident; Clarksburg Police could not be reached on Friday.

"Spoke with both parties, civil matter," the dispatcher's notes concluded.

Savanah Ringer said she was hopeful Reilly would be cooperative with authorities and be able to provide some information about her mother's whereabouts.

"If (Reilly) knows anything, I hope she will say it and not hide it," she said. "How would she feel if this was her child, wondering where she was?"

She spoke about her mother's strength and how it's helped her cope during her disappearance.

"My mom has always been a strong person. She always wanted me to keep my head up," she said. "I'm trying to hold on to that, because I know that she'd want me to be strong and do what I have to do to make sure justice gets brought to her."

In addition, she's hoping the public at large may have information that could prove useful.

"If they know anything, even if they think it's nothing, to just call in and let somebody know because something that they think is nothing, could be everything and it could bring us one step closer to finding her," she said.

The investigation

Capeless briefed the media Friday morning following Reilly's arraignment.

"We have kept hope that Joanne Ringer would be found alive, but seven weeks have passed since her disappearance and she has made no contact with family or friends, particularly with her 19-year-old daughter, Savanah. And animals that she loved were left without care at home," he said.

Capeless asked for help from the public in providing information that may further the investigation.

He said authorities are particularly interested in any information regarding sightings of Joanne Ringer's vehicle on March 2 in any location.

Investigators are also interested in any sightings of Reidy or Reilly on March 2 or 3, particularly in the areas of Clarksburg, Easthampton, Northampton or any other location, Capeless said.

"Returning Joanne Ringer to her family is the most important thing that we can do," Capeless said. "We've been focused on that since Day One."

Investigators have made numerous searches over large areas of the very rural locations near the couple's Clarksburg home and the surrounding area.

Searches in "areas of interest" will continue, Capeless said, including Clarksburg and the areas between there and Northampton and Easthampton, but will not be necessarily limited to those areas.

He asked those that may be out in the woods for the beginning of turkey hunting season next week to be especially vigilant and to report anything suspicious they may encounter.

Capeless noted the assistance of the Berkshire Mountain Search and Rescue team, and said they are conducting searches at the direction of investigators, not conducting their own independent searches.

Capeless said there are "other indicators and circumstances" that led investigators to believe Ringer may be the victim of a homicide, beyond the amount of time that has passed, but he declined to elaborate.

He also declined comment on the manner in which Reidy took his own life, noting his office has not yet received a final autopsy report from the Medical Examiner's Office, but he said that information may be released later, depending on the state of the investigation at that point.

Capeless said while Reidy is the sole suspect, investigators are still looking to see if he was aided in any way either before or after Ringer's disappearance.

Capeless urged the public to report any suspicious sightings, but to not conduct their own searches nor independent investigations.

"Let us do our job," Capeless said.

The investigation is being conducted by Massachusetts State Police detectives assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney's office, the Massachusetts State Police crime scene services section, and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office with the assistance of the Clarksburg, North Adams, Northampton and Easthampton Police departments.

Staff writer Adam Shanks contributed to this report.

Reach staff writer Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249 or @BobDunn413 on Twitter.


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