Cloud surrounds alleged hit-and-run

Saturday January 7, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A car owned by a chief probation officer and driven by his daughter is at the center of a police investigation into an alleged hit-and-run accident early last month that left a man with severe injuries.

The Pittsfield Police obtained a search warrant to look for any evidence that might definitively tie the 2001 Subaru Forester registered to Clifford J. Nilan and driven by his 24-year-old daughter, Meredith, to a hit-and-run accident on Winesap Road in Pittsfield on the evening of Dec. 8.

Peter Moore, who was hit by a car while jogging with his dog, suffered a fractured calf bone and a broken vertebrae, a bruised colon, trauma to the left side of his body, a concussion, and abrasions "from head to toe."

Attorney Timothy J. Shugrue, who is representing Meredith Nilan and who he called "a great kid," said it is an ongoing investigation and no criminal charges have been filed.

The search warrant documents, which were issued from Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington, were obtained by The Eagle on Friday. Mr. Nilan is chief of probation at Berkshire Superior Court in Pittsfield.

Police officers did look at and photograph the car the day after the accident, according to the warrant, but Shugrue denied police a second, more thorough examination without a search warrant.

Police Sgt. Mark B. Trapani, writing in his application for a search warrant on Dec. 14, stated that denial was among the reasons police needed a court’s permission to search the Subaru. The car was being kept in the Nilans’ garage at the time the search warrant was requested.

Police have not released any information on what, if anything, was obtained from the search of the car. The warrant indicated they’d hoped to look at the Subaru to search for blood, skin or hair that could determine if it was the Subaru that struck Moore, and to check the car’s data recorder to see how fast it might have been going at the time.

"[I]t is not an absolute fact at this time that it was Nilan’s vehicle that struck Moore," Trapani stated in the search warrant documents. "A more detailed search of the vehicle will determine this to a certainty."

Meanwhile, images of the Subaru viewed by The Eagle show a head-sized hole in the lower-right center of the windshield and large dents in the hood.

In the search warrant documents, Trapani pointed out "there have been inconsistencies between Moore’s account and Nilan’s account of the time of the accident, as well as where the accident occurred." However, he said while the inconsistencies may have been "inadvertent," there was no way to tell for sure without examining the vehicle.

What is known is that about 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 8, Peter Moore of 101 McIntosh Drive was jogging with his dog along Winesap Road when he saw a vehicle coming at him at a high rate of speed. He threw his dog out of the way and dove out of the way to try and avoid the vehicle, according to the search warrant documents.

Dazed after being hit, Moore got up and walked a little more than a quarter-mile to his home on McIntosh Road, where he went to bed. Neither he nor his wife called police to report what happened. However, Moore woke up a few hours later in extreme pain and went to Berkshire Medical Center to be treated.

The morning after, Berkshire Medical Center contacted police to say they were treating Moore who’d been hit by a car the night before. That day, due to his concussion, Moore was unable to provide police with a description of the vehicle that hit him, according to the search warrant records.

The police indicated that Meredith Nilan told them she struck something near the intersection of McIntosh Road around 9 p.m. She told police she got out of the vehicle, checked around, but saw nothing. She went home and later went back to the scene with her father "to look for what was struck and could not find anything," the police information stated.

They returned home and Clifford Nilan called police around 9:30 p.m. to report that his daughter had hit "either a dog or deer on Winesap Road near their home," according to court documents.

"She didn’t know what she hit," Shugrue said.

Police visited the location where Meredith Nilan said her accident occurred but couldn’t find any signs of one.

Moore told police he was hit on Winesap Road near East Street. Police visited that scene and determined it was the "actual location for the accident." There, police found what appeared to be "a large amount of apparent blood in the roadway and also what appear[ed] to be a small amount of dog fur" near 6 Winesap Road, which is close to East Street where Moore said he was hit.

According to Shugrue, the Nilans did everything right that night. They scoured the scene looking for any evidence of what Meredith may have hit, as well as reporting the accident to police and waiting for law enforcement officers, who, Shugrue claimed, never showed up at the Nilan home on the night of the accident. Meredith Nilan also cooperated by speaking with police about her accident the following day, said Shugrue.


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