Back from the Holiday

Things seem a little quiet so far. We’re hearing reports that a car struck a house in Dracut, but we have no details. The deputy chief hadn’t been notified of it, so I’m hoping that’s a sign it was no big deal.
There was also just a minor pedestrian accident on Central Street in Lowell, but no serious injuries.
I’ll be at the City Council meeting tonight for a public hearing on the proposed weapons ordinance that would ban knives with blades over 2 1/2 inches long unless there is a legitimate reason to carry them. It would also ban some other items.
Here’s some video I shot at an earlier subcommittee meeting on the ordinance. It was processed by some of our video people, so it’s not as raw as usual.


Shortest Chase Ever?

I doubt it, but it might have been close.
Harry Wolf, 33, of Chelmsford, was arrested on Westford Street late Sunday night, after lasting all of about 30 seconds in a police chase.
Police say Wolf refused to stop for officers who spotted him speeding in front of the Hong Kong in Cupples Square. The officers broadcast a description of his red Ford Mustang, but had barely finished before reporting that the suspect had crashed.
Police said Wolf lost control of the car, fishtailed, and struck two parked cars along Westford Street, between Gates and Bellevue, resulting in this.


Handcuffed, face down on the sidewalk at the scene, Wolf said he hadn’t done anything wrong, and just lost control of his car. Police didn’t seem to buy it, though they did agree to loosen his handcuffs since he said they were hurting him.


Wolf was booked for failure to stop for police, operating to endanger, resisting arrest, speeding, harsh and objectionable noise and marked lanes violation.
The spectacularly unsuccessful nature of this incident seems a bit more striking in light of 52-year-old Barbara Davis’ high speed flight through four towns and two states earlier in the day.
Oh here’s Wolf getting led into the wagon.

Do you support hurting 9-year-old girls?

If not, then you should call police if you know anyone who’s dark-colored Ford Explorer has some heavy new front-end damage on the driver’s side as of Sunday night.
It was a little before 9 Sunday night when police were called to Lawrence Street, under the railroad bridge near Billerica Street, for a reported hit & run.
An Explorer like the one I described above had smashed into the driver’s side of a silver minivan that was carrying two adults and four children. The brunt of the impact was on the rear driver’s side door, which is probably where the 9-year-old girl who had to be taken to Saints was sitting.
Police didn’t have any reports yet Sunday night, so I can’t identify those involved. I’m not sure how the girl was doing, but there was no reconstruction or anything so her injuries were apparently not severe.
That’s my definition of severe though. I’d imagine the definition employed by a 9-year-old girl who just took an impact from an SUV would likely be significantly different.
If your friend or co-worker’s Explorer has some newfound issues with it’s front end, do that girl a favor and call Lowell Police at (978) 937-3200. You don’t have to tell them your name, just fill em in on the vehicle in question.

Good Effort, Bad Follow Through

So, police are saying that Barbara Davis, at a rowdy 52-years-old, managed to get her car up to 89 mph on the Sagamore Bridge in Hudson Sunday morning. That’s fine, but she didn’t get away with it, and also didn’t get away with the fake name she gave to a Hudson Police officer who stopped her.
Just as the Hudson Officer was figuring out Davis’ real name, that she had a suspended license, and was wanted on a bench warrant, she took off, fleeing south on Lowell Road.
Hudson broke off the chase for safety, so Tyngsboro tried to stop her in their town. They gave up in Chelmsford. Chelmsford tried too, but gave up in Lowell.
That’s some serious driving for a 52-year-old. She got away.
Now, maybe I’m just a little cynical, but if I had just led police on a chase through two states and four towns, knowing full well they knew who I was, I would have gone to a friend’s house, maybe out of town for the day.
But Davis? She went home.
Which is where she was arrested by Nashua Police.
She’s being held on $2,000 cash bail as I write this.

Does Kenneth Lavallee Ever Sleep?

Your guess is as good as mine.
I had a little trouble reaching him earlier today, and he called me back tonight at 10:15 p.m., with news on the investigation into that scrap of a report on the Choeun murder that was released to the public even though it contained sensitive information.
He said the investigation has preliminarily found that the scrap was released by a civilian detention clerk who was just trying to protect the bank card so that no one could see it as she released it to the son of a man being held in lockup.
He declined to name the employee, but said she was very apologetic, and that she understands the gravity of the mistake. He won’t decide whether she will be disciplined until the investigation is complete.
Police are still trying to figure out why a report on the homicide was in the booking area to begin with.
Nevertheless, Lavallee said he has already restricted access to any reports on homicides to supervisors and officers directly involved. I forgot to ask him who had access previously, but my understanding from sources is that anyone could access the reports. Access was policed, though, because a record is created anytime a report is printed, showing who printed it, when and where.
That’s basically the same way CORI checks are policed by the state, to prevent people from using them to snoop or dig up dirt when an official investigation is not underway.
We also discussed the city’s crackdown on drunken drivers, which will be the subject of a story I just finished, and which will run in the coming days.
I won’t spoil the whole thing here, but suffice to say the story addresses the fact that drunken drivers in Lowell, and across the state, have been getting picked off like crazy lately.

You’ll Know Him If You See Him

Joanne Leone, manager of Sea World Pet Center, in Salem, NH, e-mailed Tuesday night because one of her employee’s pets was stolen from the store earlier this month.
Charlie a roughly 6-inch tall Lovebird was stolen from the store on May 7, about 5 p.m.
Yes, a Lovebird is a real type of bird — a type of small Parrot, in fact.
Charlie wasn’t for sale, though, so this is no simple case of shoplifting.
Leone had raised Charlie and gave him to another employee, Lisa Holmes, of Derry, NH, about four years ago as a birthday present. Holmes and Charlie had been inseperable ever since, and Holmes even took Charlie to work with her whenever she was there.
Charlie would hang around the store, in a cage when need be, but usually just roaming free, sticking mostly around the bird department.
On May 7, Lisa started calling out Charlie’s name and got no response. She knew something was wrong, because while Charlie can’t talk like some Parrots can, he would always, always respond with chirps and noises when he heard his name.
Leone eventually discovered store video that shows a man and a woman believed to have taken Charlie. Leone wants the public’s help in identifying these two and figuring out where Charlie was taken.
In the video below, they are the man in the black hoodie and the woman in the red hoodie.

Charlie stands about 6 inches tall, and is bright yellow with orange, rosey patches on his cheeks.
If he is returned, no questions will be asked. Leone isn’t interested in prosecuting anyone, but Holmes is broken-hearted over the loss of her pet and friend.
Police know about the theft, and have told Leone she can release the video publically.
If anyone knows where Charlie is, or wants to return him, they should call Leone at (978) 808-4421.

Good Man, Missing at Sea

Long after deadline, I saw news early Wednesday morning that Paul Blanchette, of Dracut, was missing after a dive on a ship wreck off Gloucester.
We’ve confirmed that his body was found today.
It’s tough news. Blanchette was a remarkable guy.
I drove out to his house off Merrimack Avenue in Dracut, behind Lenzi’s, in early October last year. We had heard he was one of several divers who had reached the SS Portland, a large passenger ship that sank off Cape Ann in 1898. Blanchette was with the first team of men to ever reach her, about 460 feet beneath the waves.
Diving to that depth is no small feat, so I was hopeful, but not optimistic, that Blanchette would talk.
I knocked on his door, wondering if he would be someone else who was just annoyed to see a reporter, and he was anything but. He invited me in right away.
Diving to those kinds of depths takes what is called a “technical diver.” Blanchette spent quite a while explaining to me the details of the mix of air divers must breathe at those depths.
He showed me china in his cabinets that he had gotten from the wreck of the SS Andrea Doria, another famous shipwreck he had dived on. He talked of plenty of other dives too, including one on the USS Monitor, the Civil War ironclad off Cape Hattaras, N.C.
He obviously loved this stuff. It cost thousands of dollars to do it.
“You have to love it to get into it this deep.”


This is a photo we ran with the story in October, as the team prepared to dive on the Portland. Blanchette is in the middle.
I asked Blanchette about the dangers of diving so deep, and he had plenty to say. He talked about the months of preparation such a dive required.
He wasn’t overly dramatic about the dangers the divers had faced, but he was very clear about the fact that at those depths, mistakes turn fatal.
He talked at length about all the safety precautions the divers take, and about how every system has a backup.
So what happened to him? He was diving on the Chester Poling, a large tanker that sank in 1977 off Gloucester. It is only in about 110 feet of water, though part of the ship is in deeper waters, about 190 feet, nearby.
A story in tomorrow’s paper should explore that more. I’m just saddened to hear the news.
Here is an excerpt from my Oct. 8 story.
So why do it? Why risk life and limb, and spend thousands of dollars?
“The history, and the exploration,” Blanchette said.
New England is rife with shipping history, and visiting the depths can be like visiting the moon, according to Blanchette.
“Going underwater is the closest you or I can get to being an astronaut,” he said.