Five College Area News

UPDATED: Jeff Martell, a popular musician with roots in Northampton and Greenfield, dies in West Springfield car crash. Family and friends recall a sweet, soulful man.

NORTHAMPTON — Pioneer Valley folk singer Jeff Martell died in a car crash while driving to a gig Friday night. Family and friends remember him for his love of music and the way he used it to bring people together. Martell, 50, of Northampton was one of two drivers killed in a head-on collision on Route 20 in West Springfield around 5 p.m. Friday, West Springfield Police Sgt. Hubert Rees said. Benjamin Stulpin, 24, of Springfield was also killed. Rees said two other cars were 0

Trial set for man accused of UMass rape

NORTHAMPTON — A former University of Massachusetts Amherst student who pleaded not guilty to raping a female student on a campus lawn during the first days of his freshman year in 2013 is scheduled for trial beginning Jan. 19. Patrick Durocher, 20, from Longmeadow, has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated rape, kidnapping and assault. Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup and the attorneys in the case — defense lawyer Vincent A. Bongiorni of Springfield and Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl — set 0

From commerce to healing: Northampton retailer Mary Lou Heiss of Tea Trekker fights blood cancer

NORTHAMPTON — After running five storefronts in Northampton over 40 years, retailing has long been an odyssey for merchants Robert and Mary Lou Heiss. They put that sense of adventure into the very name of their latest shop, Tea Trekker. Today, a new mission forced the couple to close. They are working with a transplant team to save Mary Lou’s life. Tests during a routine physical last summer discovered that her bone marrow no longer generates enough healthy blood cells due to a cancer known 0

UMass beefing up dorm security

AMHERST — Two years after pledging to improve residence hall security, the University of Massachusetts plans to complete projects that cost $1.45 million by the end of the year. The college has already implemented 60 of 87 security improvements recommended by a consulting firm hired after a gang rape of a then-UMass student in 2012. The incident led to the convictions and lengthy jail and state prison sentences for four young men who were not students and visiting the campus. It also exposed gaps in 0

Thousands expected at Sanders rally today

AMHERST — Interim University of Massachusetts Amherst Police Chief Patrick Archbald said “thousands” are expected for a political rally featuring presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. Sanders, an independent Vermont senator, will be holding an event at the UMass Fine Arts Center at 1 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at noon. “Many will be outside under an (overflow) tent,” Archbald wrote in an email Friday. Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises at UMass, wrote that his staff are looking into opportunities to vend food to the participants. 0

Amherst, UMass ink partnership

AMHERST — More than $250,000 in occupancy taxes collected by the University of Massachusetts at its campus hotel since July 2014 will be paid to the town early in the new year as part of a revised strategic partnership agreement finalized this month. The Selectboard unanimously authorized interim Town Manager David Ziomek to sign the long-awaited renewal of the partnership, first adopted in 2007, that will extend the arrangement through June 30, 2019, and bring the town significant payments for fire protection, ambulances and other 0

UMass professor aims to make data more trustworthy

AMHERST — Data is plentiful and easily shared, but that means errors and false information can be spread quickly, too. Alexandra Meliou, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, recently received a $550,000 National Science Foundation grant to design and develop new technologies that will help those who work with data avoid those errors. Some of them can have deadly consequences. Meliou gave the example of a person’s medical coverage running out because the patient’s date of birth is wrong or 0

Bernie Sanders to speak at UMass on Saturday

AMHERST — Bernie Sanders will return to Massachusetts Saturday, this time venturing into Hampshire County. Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who is pursuing the Democratic nomination for president, will appear at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center, 151 Presidents Drive, at 1 p.m. to give a talk called “Future to Believe in.” Doors open at noon and the event is free and open to the public. Sanders will also hold a similar event in Worcester on Saturday at 5 p.m. at North High 0

Former Spanish teacher sues Amherst College, colleague, over lost job

NORTHAMPTON — A former Spanish language lecturer at Amherst College is suing the school and another former teacher, claiming she lost her job after sticking up for teaching assistants who said they were encouraged to sleep with students to increase enrollment in the department’s classes. The lawsuit was filed in Hampshire Superior Court this month by Dimaris Barrios-Beltran. The defendants named are Amherst College and Victoria Maillo, a former lecturer in the Spanish Department who left the college earlier this year. In the five-count complaint, 0

UMass sued over handling of sexual assault case

AMHERST — In a federal lawsuit filed this fall against the University of Massachusetts Amherst and six of its officials, a male former student has joined other plaintiffs around the country in claiming that a school’s disciplinary process for handling claims of sexual assault violated his civil rights. Disciplinary proceedings against the plaintiff and former student, Kwadwo Bonsu, began after a female student accused him of sexually assaulting her at an off-campus Halloween party in 2014. A UMass disciplinary board eventually found Bonsu “not responsible” 0