The Recorder – Jurors visit six sites on day one of Athol’s murder trial

GREENFIELD – The trial of Keith D. Hamel, an Athol man accused of killing a 26-year-old Leominster woman in November 2019, began Thursday with the jury driven around Athol to visit six locations they will hear from speak during testimony.

Sixteen jurors were sworn in and were transported by coach to the Athol sewage treatment plant, where victim Kelsey Clifford was found beaten to death, as well as Main Street and four other locations in the city . They were joined by Judge John Agostini, the attorneys handling the case, the first deputy clerk, a court reporter and various court aides. They were escorted by state police, assisted by the Athol Police Department.

The parties returned to Franklin County Superior Court around 12:45 p.m., where Agostini told jurors about the “tremendous responsibility” they have and explained the trial process before the court adjourned for lunch. Jurors were also taken to Union Street, Leonard Street, Silver Lake and Athol Spirits at 9 Tunnel St.

Hamel, 25, pleaded not guilty to a single count of murder and armed robbery as well as two counts of intimidation of a witness/juror/policeman/court official and four counts of withholding evidence in official proceedings. He is accused of killing Clifford on November 11, 2019. Clifford’s body was found the same day with at least 15 puncture wounds to the head and face.

Hamel also allegedly stole $400 in cash and a cell phone from the victim after his death. The state alleges Hamel, who had a girlfriend, killed Clifford, who had a boyfriend, to gain access to his cell phone to suppress evidence of a sexual encounter between the two. He is being held without the right to bail. He was not in the motorcade to Athol, but rather being held in a cell at the Greenfield courthouse.

Assistant Northwest District Attorneys Jeremy Bucci and Joseph Webber are prosecuting the case for the state. Hamel is represented by attorney Joshua Hochberg.

Opening statements

The hearing resumed shortly before 2:30 p.m., with Bucci and Hochberg making opening statements to the jury. Bucci said Clifford was a mother, daughter and sister beaten to death with a hammer at around 3:30 a.m. on November 11, 2019. Bucci said Hamel “was breaking down and needed the money” . Bucci told jurors that Hamel killed Clifford – his best friend’s girlfriend – to cover up a sexual relationship and stole his money to buy crack cocaine later that night. He said the defendant deleted the Facebook posts “and (Clifford’s) cell phone was never seen again, and later that day his cell phone went missing.” He told jurors they would hear a lot about the discovery of Hamel’s DNA on a sweatshirt, on Clifford’s body and on a cigarette in the victim’s hand when she was found dead.

Bucci explained that a fellow inmate Hamel had befriended reported to officers at the Franklin County Jail and the Reformatory that Hamel had told him to inform them that the murder weapon was located. in a sewer grate – where she was later found by authorities – but asked to tell officers the information came from Clifford’s boyfriend.

In his opening statements, Hochberg said Clifford’s boyfriend should be in the defendant’s chair, “not Keith Hamel.” He told jurors to expect to hear a lot of information about the blood and DNA evidence. He also stated that Clifford’s boyfriend was upset that Clifford kept working as an exotic dancer and had no patience for previous girlfriends who cheated on him. Hochberg called the state’s story about Hamel’s fellow inmate a “show” and told jurors they were “going to hear a lot about drug addiction and alcoholism.”

Clifford’s mother, Allison Clifford, was the first to testify. She explained that her youngest daughter lived in Fitchburg and moved to Athol to avoid money troubles. Bucci displayed on the courtroom screens Facebook photos that the elder Clifford explained depicting Kelsey Clifford and his cell phone. She also identified her daughter in video footage of a Walmart and Athol Spirits.

The state also called Andy Belloli, Mark Chapalonis and David Craven to the stand. Belloli is an employee of the Athol sewage department who went to the police department on November 11 to report what he thought was someone sleeping in the tall grass outside the plant when he stopped at 5 o’clock in the morning. Chapalonis was a brand new Athol police officer who was the first dispatched to the scene, and Craven is an Athol Water Department employee who called the police after also spotting Clifford’s body near a car empty whose doors were open that morning.

The hearing adjourned at 3:15 p.m. Agostini told jurors to report Friday morning so the trial could resume at 9 a.m.

Contact Domenic Poli at: [email protected] or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.