Murder suspect’s new attorney gets extra time

  • Keith D. Hamel, of Athol, looks to defense attorney John Morris after pleading not guilty Jan. 15 in Franklin County Superior Court to a charge of murder. Hamel is now represented by Joshua Hochberg of Pittsfield. FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Keith D. Hamel, of Athol, enters Franklin County Superior Court to answer to murder and other charges on Jan. 15. Hamel will be back in court for a pretrial hearing on Sept. 24. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/17/2020 4:11:22 PM

GREENFIELD — The Athol man accused of killing a Leominster woman last year has a new defense attorney, who on Friday was granted additional time to review information regarding the case’s evidence and witnesses, known as discovery.

Keith D. Hamel, 23, has been represented by Joshua Hochberg of Hochberg Law Offices in Pittsfield since June 25, and a pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 24.

According to Chief Trial Counsel Jeremy Bucci, who is prosecuting the case, Hochberg has all the discovery and can print it out if need be. However, there is a protective order in place that allows Hamel to view the discovery, but prohibits him from printing or distributing any of it to anyone.

Attempts to reach Hochberg on Monday were unsuccessful.

Hamel is alleged to have killed 26-year-old Kelsey Clifford, whose body was found Nov. 11 near the locked gates of the entrance to the Athol Wastewater Treatment Plant with at least 15 stab wounds to her head and face.

Hamel was arraigned in Orange District Court in November before his Jan. 15 arraignment in Franklin County Superior Court after the case was transferred due to its severity. He pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, one count of armed robbery, two counts of misleading police and four counts of tampering with evidence. If convicted of murder in the first degree, he would serve a minimum sentence of life without parole.

According to a statement of alleged facts by the prosecution, Clifford was found lying face-down without her cellphone, and her money was missing.

In February, the state filed a motion to compel Hamel to enter a passcode to unlock his cellphone, which prosecutors believed could contain evidence. According to Bucci, this motion was allowed and Hamel complied with the court order.

Police reportedly found Hamel’s sweatshirt in a bush on Leonard Street, between the crime scene and his Silver Lake Street home. Clifford’s blood was on the outside of the sweatshirt and Hamel’s DNA was on the inside of a sleeve. Hamel’s DNA was also recovered from Clifford’s body.

The statement by the prosecution also alleges Hamel lied to investigators when questioned Nov. 11, telling them he did not have a phone the day of the murder and that he had been with a juvenile girl during a car ride with Clifford early that morning. He allegedly repeated the lies the next day.

According to the statement, investigators learned Hamel damaged his phone and had deleted Facebook messages between himself and Clifford on their phones. Investigators also learned Hamel was alone with Clifford the day of the murder.

Hamel was arrested Nov. 18, at approximately 4:40 p.m. on Main Street in Athol. At the time of Clifford’s death, Hamel had eight open adult criminal dockets pending in Orange District Court. He has previously been charged with larceny under $1,200, being a fugitive from justice on a court warrant, resisting arrest, possession of a Class B drug, and two counts of assault and battery on a police officer.

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


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