WTH Happened in Pittsfield This Week?


The hunt continues in earnest for the city’s most recent serial armed robber.  A video released by Pittsfield Police of “La Mascara Bandida” (The Masked (female) Bandit, and by the way, it wouldn’t hurt you to learn a smidge of Spanish, Pittsfield) saw nearly 2000 views in the first 24 hours on youtube, or about 40 times the views vids of Pittsfield’s Mayoral Inauguration got in two months.  PPD says they’ve gotten numerous tips in response, but no arrests as yet.

A systematic stake out of local convenience stores Saturday night verified a  heavy police presence, with cruisers passing by or circling slowly at regular intervals at nearly a dozen surveyed locations.


On Tuesday night, Pittsfield was shocked by the news that a man was struck by a CSX freight train on the tracks along Depot Street.  In a previous post the similarities between this and previous incidents in the same general area were explored.

Authorities on Wednesday released the name of the victim, John Castonguay of Pittsfield.  Whether his death was an accident or suicide remains undetermined, according to Pittsfield Police.

While no new information or obituary has yet appeared, a cursory check of public records outlines a troubled history dating back to the man’s youth.  Castonguay was a registered sex offender, dating back to a conviction for sexual abuse in 1985.  Local police twice sought him out for failing to register as such, most recently in 2006.  In 2008, Castonguay was arrested along with two other men for breaking into the Clock Tower building on South Church street in order to steal some scrap metal or tools.


….voted on several noteworthy issues Tuesday, including a move to expand the board of PEDA from 7 to 11 members, prohibition of non-essential heavy commercial vehicles on Melbourne Road, and a proposal by Councilor Clairmont that the city generate a list of desired but unfunded projects so that local businesses and philanthropists who may be so inclined to fund them.


Also of real noteworthiness, in my opinion, is this story from earlier in the week about First Congregational Church’s bold move to symbolically and pragmatically support the LGBT community and help foster dialogue about inclusion.  This courageous stance by yet another mainstream Protestant church is yet another sign of changing attitudes across the social spheres.

While similar affirmations have been put forth by churches in Lenox, Williamstown, Stockbridge and Housatonic… we’re not any of those towns. In this somewhat more blue-collar, generally angrier, more reactionary little city, such an example by this iconic Park Square place of worship, Pittsfield’s oldest, is significant.


In the ongoing sage of the most talked about local hit-and-run case in maybe ever, Meredith Nilan had not guilty pleas entered for her on her behalf at an arraignment at Central Berkshire Court on Wednesday.  The case will be prosecuted by Springfield DA Joseph Quinlan and heard by Northampton Judge Michael Mulcahy, who set a March 21 pre-trial hearing date.

Curiously, the following day a motion to dismiss was filed by Nilan’s attorney, Timothy Shugrue, on the grounds that the court seems to be missing key paperwork on this case, including copies of the initial January show-cause hearing and subsequent re-hearing under Judge William Hadley.  According to Shugrue, “No one appears to know where they went.”

Accusations have swirled for weeks that Ms. Nilan has received special treatment due to her father, Clifford Nilan, being a highly placed official within the court system – in this context, the revelation that documents are suddenly missing from this case is being viewed by many with extreme suspicion.

In other courthouse news, several individuals were sentenced this week on a variety of robbery, larceny, assault and drug charges.  See Superior Court  Briefs Feb. 27- Mar. 1 for the full lineup.


Pittsfield’s new baseball team will be called the Suns, we were told this week. The Suns will have the same general manager as the failed Colonials team, but owners at the Goldklang Group assure us that a new business model, including “unconventional” promotional initiatives, will succeed where the previous franchise failed to hold water at Wahconah Park.