NORTH ADAMS -- Preliminary autopsy results have confirmed that city resident Ellen DePaoli was the victim of a homicide, according to a statement from the Berkshire District Attorney's office.
Specific details of the autopsy, which was performed by Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Anna McDonald from the Chief Medical Examiner's office in Boston on Thursday, are being withheld pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation.
"Anytime one of our citizens, particularly one of our seniors, is killed, there is cause for concern along with grief," Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said in a Thursday press release. "However, based upon the information that investigators have developed, we consider this to be an isolated incident and North Adams residents should not be unduly alarmed." Police are still searching for a 2005 blue Ford Taurus as part of the investigation of DePaoli's death.
The car is missing from DePaoli's 409 Walker St. residence and was registered to DePaoli with the license plate 88ZA27, according to a separate press release from Capeless' officer.
Investigators are asking anyone who may have information about the whereabouts of the vehicle to call the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4944.
Frederick Lantz, spokesman for the district attorney's office, declined to comment Thursday morning on why investigators are searching for the car or how it may be linked to the investigation. He also declined to comment on whether police were searching for or had any suspects in custody, as the investigation is ongoing.
DePaoli, 84, who was a long-time cafeteria supervisor at Drury High School, was found dead inside her home by police Tuesday night. Police were responding to a 911 call at 8 that night, during which the caller reported the death. The person who made the 911 call remains unidentified by the district attorney's office.
Investigators from the North Adams Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police were at the house Wednesday. A state police helicopter was seen circling the house and surrounding area midmorning and state police K-9 units were also called to the scene. Police also reportedly searched the nearby woods on all-terrain vehicles later that day.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright reiterated Thursday that city schools were not closed on Wednesday because he had been reassured by investigators there was "no imminent or immediate threat" to the community.
"If there was imminent danger or an immediate threat, we would have kept our schools closed," he said.
However, Superintendent James E. Montepare chose to heighten security at the city's schools on Wednesday, enacting the district's "lockout" procedure, as a precautionary measure.
"We have our schools locked everyday. The difference between what we do normally and a ‘lockout' is that we don't buzz people into the building," Montepare said on Thursday. "We don't take any risks -- recess is confined, no field trips are taken and the custodians, administrators and myself float around the building to make sure thinks are OK Teachers are aware they need to report anything suspicious.
He added, "It's one of those situations, where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. If I'm going to err on something, I'm going to err of the side of safety and cautions. We're never afraid to take that extra step." This is the first homicide-related death to take place in the city since 2008.
The investigation is being conducted by the North Adams Police Department, state Police Detectives assigned to the district attorney's office, officers from the Pittsfield Police Department, deputies from the Berkshire County Sheriff's department and members of the Berkshire County Law Enforcement Task Force.