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Addiction in Franklin County

Monson man charged in railroad copper theft

CHARLEMONT — One man died and another faces trial after the two allegedly stole copper wire from the railroad.

Duane Pierce Jr., 30, of Monson pleaded innocent to charges of malicious injury to railroad property, larceny over $250, receiving stolen property over $250, malicious destruction of property over $250, and walking or riding on a railroad track, in Greenfield District Court this week.

His arraignment came after a lengthy investigation of a Sept. 20 incident.

Police were alerted to the copper theft after Pierce himself dialed 911.

He had found his friend and alleged partner, Adam Dugay, unconscious by the railroad track near the Zoar Picnic Area, and attempted CPR before he dragged Dugay to the roadside and called for help, according to police. Dugay, of Monson, was pronounced dead at Baystate Franklin Medical Center that afternoon, at the age of 29.

Pierce initially told police that he and his friend had been fishing, and he had wandered farther upstream before returning to find Dugay on the ground near the bathroom, according to a report by Trooper John Riley.

When police responded, they found a large amount of copper wire in the vehicle the two were using, some in the back seat and more in the trunk, Riley wrote. Buried under several rolls of wire, they found a fishing pole and tackle box, according to the report, leading them to believe the two had been doing more than just fishing.

Riley’s report says Pierce gave police several different accounts of the day’s events, first denying any illegal activity, then mentioning Dugay’s possible heroin use, and finally saying that Dugay had used heroin an hour before Pierce found him dead, and that he himself had used heroin the previous day. He said Dugay had been stealing copper wire, while distancing himself from the crime, according to the report.

The medical examiner was unable to determine the cause of Dugay’s death.

After observing a black substance on Pierce’s and Dugay’s hands and arms, and blisters on the dead man’s hands, and discussing the incident scene with others, State Police Lt. Jim Penniman concluded that the two men had been cutting copper wire that ran from the railroad tracks to the road, Riley wrote.

Penniman had observed “numerous spots” where wire had been obviously cut, and he saw that utility poles had recently been marked up by climbing spikes, according to Riley.

A flattened swath of vegetation led from the scene of the theft down to the road, where Pierce told police he dragged Dugay after finding him unconscious, according to the report.

In the car, police found copper wire, cutting tools, foot spikes and other climbing gear, according to Riley.

Pan-Am Railways told police it cost approximately $3,400 in labor and materials to repair the damage caused by the theft, wrote Riley.

Railroad police told investigators that some of the lines in the area carried 500 volts or more, and police became concerned that Dugay had been electrocuted, Riley wrote.

When police returned to the scene to follow-up, they found a tool bag containing two syringes and several blue wax-paper heroin bags, Riley wrote.

Police interviewed Pierce’s stepfather, Thomas Mulrooney, who gave them a Ziploc bag full of used heroin packets that he said Pierce had collected. Many of the bags bore the same stamp as the ones found where Dugay collapsed, according to Riley’s report.

Mulrooney also told police that Pierce had stolen jewelry, tools and metal goods from him in the past, and gave them a stack of receipts from local scrap yards, where he said Pierce and an associate regularly sold items to support a daily heroin habit, according to the report.

After his arraignment, Pierce was released on personal recognizance. He is due back in court June 30 for a pretrial conference.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 @RecorderRain

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