Most charges against Athol kidnapping suspect dismissed; four other defendants retain charges

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 01-10-2024 6:56 PM

GREENFIELD — One of the five North Quabbin residents facing charges of kidnapping and other crimes stemming from an alleged incident last February has had nine of her charges dismissed while other charges, and all those of her co-defendants, remain in place.

April McCassie will no longer face prosecution in Franklin County Superior Court for three counts of conspiracy, two counts of armed robbery, and single counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, assault by means of a dangerous weapon, stealing by confining or putting a person in fear, and assault and battery, Judge Karen Goodwin ruled on Tuesday.

Goodwin ruled, however, that the grand jury had sufficient evidence to support two counts of kidnapping and one count of assault and battery.

“With respect to the other charges against McCassie, the grand jury lacked evidence that McCassie knowingly participated in the offenses or shared an intent to commit the offenses,” Goodwin wrote in her decision. “There is no evidence that McCassie was aware of the use of dangerous weapons.”

The defense attorneys of McCassie, James Murphy, Ronald P. Mitchell III and Marlene M. Hill filed motions to have all of their clients’ charges dismissed. Franklin Payne is also facing charges in connection to the case.

According to police reports, a man visited the Athol Police Station at roughly 5:10 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2023, to report being assaulted the previous night and having several items stolen. The man had injuries to his hand, head, face and back, and was directed to Athol Hospital for medical evaluation.

The man reportedly told police that he and a friend visited 32 Laurel St. at about 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 1 to buy drugs. According to police reports, McCassie accused the two men of being at 5 Sanders St. when items were stolen the night before. The reporting victim told police he and the other man had stolen clothes belonging to Payne’s brother.

The victim said McCassie called Franklin Payne to tell him the other man was at the house. Two men — one of whom was later identified as Murphy — then allegedly grabbed his friend and held him until Payne arrived.

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The reporting victim said Payne arrived and began hitting the other man before questioning the victim, who admitted to stealing the clothing. He said Payne started hitting him in the face and dragged him into the back bedroom. According to police reports, Payne grabbed a pocket knife that fell out of the victim’s backpack, opened it and held the blade to the victim’s face, saying he was going to cut him. The reporting complainant said Payne forced the two victims to fight each other, or else he threatened to knock the other man unconscious. The victim said his friend placed him in a chokehold until Payne split them up.

The reporting victim told police that Payne removed his own belt and began whipping his back, demanding the personal identification number to the victim’s debit card and cellphone. According to police reports, it was later determined that someone involved with the incident used the debit card to deplete the victim’s bank account.

The victim told police the assault lasted about an hour and a half before a man and woman — later identified as Hill and Mitchell — removed him from the residence and placed him in Hill’s vehicle. The victim said they drove to his grandparents’ house to retrieve some of the stolen items before driving back to 32 Laurel St., and Hill and Mitchell did the same with the other man. According to police reports, the two victims were allowed to leave the residence after roughly four hours.

Payne has been charged with two counts of each of the following charges: kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, conspiracy, armed robbery, assault to maim, and intimidate to steal from depository.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.