Former Bernardston fugitive pleads guilty

  • Antonio Peter Candello, right, in court Tuesday with his attorney, Alfred P. Chamberland. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 10/26/2021 5:51:30 PM

GREENFIELD — The Bernardston man who in May 2019 assaulted and choked his wife before fleeing into the woods, cutting off his court-ordered ankle monitoring bracelet and taking refuge at an abandoned cabin where authorities later found him was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to seven charges in Franklin County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Antonio Peter Candello, 51, will receive 895 days of credit, having been in custody since his arrest on May 15, 2019. The sentences for each charge will run concurrently. He was sentenced to not less than three years and not more than three years and one day.

A jury trial was on the docket to begin in a fourth-floor courtroom of the Franklin County Justice Center at 9 a.m., but Candello reported he wanted to agree to a plea deal.

First Assistant Clerk Magistrate Benjamin Simanski said roughly 50 potential jurors were in a third-floor jury pool room to await empanelment, or jury selection.

Candello, who appeared in handcuffs before Judge Francis Flannery, pleaded guilty to two counts of witness intimidation, two counts of assault and battery on a family/household member (including a subsequent offense), and single counts of strangulation or suffocation (subsequent offense), and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

As part of the plea agreement, the state dismissed charges of kidnapping, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a family member, attempting to violate an abuse prevention order, violation of an abuse prevention order, and three counts of solicitation to commit murder — the latter stemming from allegations that Candello offered to pay a fellow inmate to kill his wife.

Flannery reviewed the agreed recommendation for sentencing and deemed it a fair deal for Candello and a reasonable compromise for the state prosecution.

Alfred P. Chamberland, the attorney representing Candello, asked Flannery to recommend his client serve his prison time at the Franklin County or Hampshire County house of corrections to accommodate visits from Candello’s best friend, who was present at several court proceedings.

Chamberland said this would also be convenient to him, as he is representing Candello in an open case involving a charge of forcible rape of a child stemming from 1991. In Greenfield District Court in 2017, Candello pleaded guilty to strangulation, and this plea resulted in a DNA sample used to build the child assault case against him. Flannery said he would make the recommendation.

Assistant District Attorney Erin Aiello, who prosecuted the case, told Flannery that on May 10, 2019, Candello’s wife told a police officer that Candello had strangled her. The officer noticed the woman’s neck was red and that she had pulled a loose wad of hair from her head. The woman said Candello blamed her for the open rape case.

“She said he grabbed her by the hair, grabbed her by the throat with his left hand, choking her while holding her hair with his right hand,” Aiello said. “She also indicated that he had punched her in the head and throughout her body. At that time, emergency medical services were called and at that time, Mrs. Candello refused further treatment.”

Aiello said Candello was arrested and held while awaiting a pretrial hearing. Candello, Aiello said, wrote his mother a letter that contained a separate letter to his wife. That letter included language that Candello instructed her to transcribe to recant her story and deliver to his attorney’s office. The letter was intercepted by the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction, where Candello is housed, and never made it to Candello’s mother.

After his client was led out of the courtroom, Chamberland told the Greenfield Recorder he and Candello are happy this case was resolved.

In a prepared statement, Aiello said the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office is pleased a repeat offender of intimate partner violence was held accountable.

“That accountability was a direct result of community action. Several good Samaritans assisted in not only intervening in violence that was already occurring, but also in reporting continued risk of violence to the victim,” she said. “The trauma-informed approach utilized by first responders aided in the investigation and subsequent outcome. This case highlights the importance of a coordinated response to intimate partner violence.”

Authorities had searched for Candello for four days following the May 10, 2019, domestic assault and battery at his home. Authorities arrested him on May 14 at around 9 p.m. in the woods on the west side of Route 5, north of central Bernardston.

State Police believe Candello fled into the woods and cut off his court-ordered ankle monitoring bracelet before taking refuge at an abandoned cabin. He had evaded police in two separate searches on May 14, but was apprehended after State Police got a tip that Candello had been spotted in the woods around Haigis Branch Road, in a cabin police had checked earlier.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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