Top 20 local stories on WWLP.com in 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – As we close out 2017, 22News is taking a look back at our top stories over the past year. From the deadly New Years’ Day fire in Holyoke to a major break in the decades-old murder case of Lisa Ziegert, and an extremely lucky Chicopee Powerball winner, here are the most-read stories of 2017.

20. Two bodies found in Pittsfield home

Pittsfield firefighters conducting a well-being check had to force their way into the home, where they found the bodies of 53-year-old John Kordana and 39-year-old Celeste Kordana inside. Autopsies revealed Celeste died of blunt force trauma to the head, while John died from asphyxiation and loss of blood from superficial wounds that the DA’s office said appear to have been self-inflicted.

19. Woman killed in Wendell shooting; police searching for suspect

After a five-day manhunt, 53-year-old Lewis Starkey III was arrested in connection with the shooting death of his 48-year-old girlfriend Amanda Glover. Starkey is also accused of driving to Chicopee just hours after the murder, where he allegedly shot at one of his co-workers at Specialized Trucking.

Photo courtesy Chicopee Police Department

18. Big rig driver killed in fiery tractor trailer crash in Lee

The driver became trapped in his burning tractor trailer cab after rear-ending another big-rig on the Mass Pike.

17. Deadly accident in Palmer temporarily closed section of Boston Road

A man was killed after crashing into an overpass on Route 67 in Palmer. The car caught on fire and had been burning for several minutes before firefighters and police got there.

16. DA Spokesman: Teen stabbed mother to death, then killed himself

Investigators believe that a 15-year-old boy stabbed his mother to death before shooting and killing himself. Their bodies were found inside their Chicopee home after a neighbor told firefighters he heard a gunshot.

15.  “Compelling information” gathered in search for car linked to Molly Bish case

A ground-penetrating radar search of a campground in West Brookfield yielded “compelling information” in the investigation into the 2000 murder of Molly Bish. Dr. Sarah Stein, a private investigator who has worked for the Bish family since 2003, led the search for a white car suspected to have been buried at the Old Sawmill Campground.

16 year-old Molly Bish disappeared from her lifeguard post at Comins Pond in Warren on June 27, 2000.

14.   Police found 4 pipe bombs in truck on Route 5; suspect taken to hospital

Police arrested a former Marine after complaints from the Springfield Veteran Center, and a short police pursuit, during which West Springfield Police Chief Ronald Campuciani said he waved the pipe bombs out the window of the pickup truck. In addition to the pipe bombs, another home-made explosive device was found at his home in Russell.


13.  Police, District Attorney conduct investigation in Westfield

For months, police were limited by law in their ability to release information about an ongoing investigation in Westfield, in which a transfer station and apartment complex were searched. It wasn’t until the arrest of 38-year-old Shanna Sharples five months later, that we had some insight into the investigation. The mother had been charged with disposing of a baby after giving birth, though the baby’s body has never been found.

Westfield Transfer Station

12. 3 dead after New Years Day apartment fire in Holyoke

The year 2017 started off on a somber note for residents at an apartment building on North East Street in Holyoke. Three people were killed and 25 families were left without a home. It was later determined the connection between the fire alarm system and the alarm monitoring company stopped working just two days before. Full coverage here.

 11. 2 dementia residents found trapped, 1 dead at Longmeadow nursing home

After 22News found out JGS Lifecare was being investigated by the state, the I-Team discovered that two dementia residents were found trapped between the side rail and mattress of their beds. One of those residents was found dead. 

10. VIDEO: Sasquatch sighting at the “X” in Springfield

Our own Storm Team Meteorologist Jennifer Pagliei went viral after a Sasquatch covered in marijuana leaves made an uncanny appearance on live television.

9.   Hampden DA: 6 kilos of heroin, guns, cars seized during raids

An investigation into what the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office called a “high-level heroin trafficking organization” uncovered massive amounts of heroin, illegal firearms, and luxury cars. The street value of the heroin seized? $1.3 million!

8. Body found in Szot Park, Chicopee police investigating homicide

A community activist who had been shot multiple times was found dead in Szot Park in Chicopee in September. His death still remains a mystery. If you have any information that can help investigators, you are urged to call the Chicopee Police Department at (413) 594-1730 or the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit at (413) 505-5993. You can also anonymously text a tip by texting the word “SOLVE” and your message to CRIMES (274637).

 

7.  4 dead in Springfield SUV crash; vehicle had been stolen

Three Central High School students and one young man were killed when the stolen SUV they were in crashed into a tree on Union Street in Springfield. The alleged driver and sole survivor in the crash crash has pleaded not guilty to four counts of manslaughter.

Image Courtesy: Springfield Fire Department

6. Massachusetts State Police searched for escaped inmate

James Morales, a former Army reservist, was in custody for theft of weapons from a federal armory in Worcester in 2015 when he escaped a Rhode Island correctional facility. While Morales was on the run, he attempted to rob two banks in eastern Massachusetts, but was ultimately caught and taken back into custody.

Photo Courtesy: Massachusetts State Police

 

5.  400+ arrests, 32K bags of heroin seized in Holyoke’s “Operation Full Throttle III”

More than 400 arrests were made, and 32,000 bags of heroin were taken off the streets as part of a month-long anti-crime push in Holyoke called “Operation Full Throttle III.”

Mugshots of suspects arrested in “Operation Full Throttle III” lined the wall of a room at Holyoke Police Department headquarters.

4. Gary Schara arrested in murder of Lisa Ziegert

Though recent revelations in the evidence led investigators to Gary Schara, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said he had been a person of interest in the case since 1993. Full coverage here. 

3.  Massachusetts changing process for auto inspections

As of October 1, inspection stations had to upgrade to a new system that requires multiple cameras to record the emissions testing process.


2. $758M Powerball ticket sold in Chicopee; Winner announced

Fifty-three year-old Mavis L. Wanczyk is taking home the largest jackpot ever won by a single ticket in North American Lottery history. She bought the winning ticket at the Pride Station & Store on Montgomery Street in Chicopee.

(Photo Courtesy: Massachusetts State Lottery)

1. I-91 Reconstruction