Tuesday, January 5, 2016

City of Amherst Denies Petrit Vasi Records, Again

My appeals for information related to Petrit Vasi's accident are progressing, slowly.

Just before the holidays, the Amherst Police Department's records secretary, Jennifer Gundersen, replied to my official petition for redress. This is where the Amherst police department had to explain to the state's Public Records Supervisor why they were not releasing records about an 11-year-old case. The majority of Gundersen's argument was that they could not release Vasi's name because it would violate HIPAA laws -- which is only a distraction and not the meat of my argument to getting the records anyway. I have no issue with them redacting Vasi's name, which is what they want to do with the incident reports.

What I really want are the investigatory notes of the officers assigned to investigate Vasi's accident, which may have been a hit-and-run which occurred the night Maura Murray had a breakdown at work, just before she ran away to the White Mountains. Here's Gundersen's response to that:



They claim not to be able to release the records because it's part of an ongoing investigation. My hunch is that this is untrue. It's an easy excuse some departments make to skirt open records laws. In fact, as they are treating it as a hit-and-run, they cannot possibly consider it an open and active case because the statute of limitations has long since expired for such a crime. There is no chance of prosecution in this case. As such, it cannot be open.

Anyway, I have appealed this, again. More soon.


29 comments:

  1. Sharing of information is critical to solving cases--especially cold cases. Time and time again investigations have been hampered by departments and agencies not being fully transparent. The fact they are not being cooperative is not a smoking gun IMO. I have been involved in multiple police investigations and interactions and the shear beauracracy--even in a small department--is unbelievable. It's astounding how even departments within the same organization won't cooperate with each other. Throughout history this has resulted in botched investigations---two of the most notable Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer. Both perpetrators most likely could have been apprehended if communication and was more organized and openly shared.

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  2. Maybe they do think that the maura case is connected in someway and that is why they can't release the info.

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  3. how is this going to help find Maura? even if the saturn did hit Vasi what difference does it really make at this point?

    is it relevant to the end result, that is finding Maura?

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    1. It may focus the search for her. If in fact she did hit Petrit it might give more credence to suicide or voluntarily missing opposed to abduction or murder. Just a thought.

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    2. We're trying to understand the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. Maybe the Vasi this is nothing, maybe it's something. It's important to gather all information. You never know what's relevant and what's not.

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  4. AUGUST 2004?

    The event in question happened February 5th, 2004. Is there some confusion?

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    1. I saw the same thing! Why does it say August in her response James? Just a mistake?

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  5. why does the report say "August 2004"

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  6. It seems they have one excuse after another. Which one is it, it's an open investigation that may result in criminal prosecution 12 years later, or the HIPPA laws? IMO- there trying to make it more difficult then it has to be. Keep fighting to get those Records.

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  7. "why does the report say "August 2004"

    Welcome to The Age of Information, where NOTHING is edited.

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  8. Ummm. Yeah. Something's rotten in Denmark. 0_o

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  9. Active Investigation? sooooooo if the hit&run statute of limitations has run out ~ what are they hanging their hat on.... attempted murder?

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  10. Surely the consent of Vasi himself would get around the HIPPA laws. Also, I still cannot find the legal concepts behind the phrase "ongoing investigation". What exactly does it mean?

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  11. Others have pointed out that the statute of limitations clock doesn't tick while a suspect is missing or in hiding. First--is that true and second--if it is, how interesting is their response then!

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    1. BINGO! One of the only ways for this to be an open case, given the statute of limitations is if they have one or more persons of interest (for example, Maura) who they cannot find.

      In my opinion, the response JR received speaks VOLUMES. Whoever wrote it knows full well the "open investigation" excuse can and will be further challenged down the line. My guess is that they think there's a strong chance Maura was involved.

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    2. But if the police suspected that Maura was responsible, why would they keep it a secret? There have many cases where law enforcement have informed the public that a person is wanted for questioning in regards to a certain crime. The police have never once done that with Maura (that I know of) in the last 11years. I imagine they would have done that if they believed she was involved in the hit and run.

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    3. In MA, it is true: "An indictment for any other crime shall be found and filed within 6 years after such crime has been committed. Any period during which the defendant is not usually and publicly a resident within the commonwealth shall be excluded in determining the time limited."

      The crimes not covered under this "all other crimes" umbrella are murder, and basically any crimes against minors. Here is the link to relevant statute: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleII/Chapter277/Section63

      I don't subscribe to the Maura hit Petrit theory. I don't think she had the opportunity based on what her supervisor had to say. Nor do I subscribe to the "lending the car to the pizza driver who hit Petrit with it" theory either; besides the fact that I just don't buy into the concept she was involved with the pizza guy, she wouldn't be criminally responsible for any such accident since she wasn't driving. And though it has been the better part of 2 decades since I lived in MA, I am pretty sure she would not have been financially responsible either, since I am fairly confident that the insurance of the driver would relieve any such obligation, though I will own to any schooling on this point from anyone who does live in MA. In short, I really don't think that the Petrit incident had any bearing on the case, or contributed in any way to Maura leaving.

      Knowing that having a suspect who is missing suspends the tolling on the statute of limitations does not, I think, conclusively point to APD considering Maura as a suspect for the H&R. I'd be willing to bet that they are considering it open because they have NO suspects, and thus, have no true idea how the statute of limitations applies. They could, conceivably, find that another college student (perhaps one from out-of-state and who moved to another state after graduation) is responsible, and because that person has not lived in MA for a total of 6 years after the crime, may be able to bring charges (I think it would be an end-run around the spirit of the law, but I can't find where it can't be done.)

      It may also be worth mentioning that SoL laws don't actually prevent charges from being brought against a suspect; only that a defendant can use the SoL as a viable defense against said charges. Therefore, charges could conceivably be brought 20 years after the fact, which could still be reflected on the public record.

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  12. Do you have an attorney involved?If not,Maybe someone here would help you out pro bono.

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  13. FYI: it's the town of Amherst - not city.

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  14. While it's important to cover the bases, I really think Billy's phone records are a strong indication that relationship issues are the impetus behind Maura going on her trip.

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  15. Statute of limitations is specific to the defendant - if the suspect had been for example hiding/missing, they can be charged many years after the statute would have otherwise lapsed. Generally, the statute is only running/ticking when the defendant has been living "openly and notoriously" in the state where the incident took place (or in some cases, living openly and notoriously within reach of the state's long arm statute).

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  16. I thought Hipaa only applies to medical records? Sounds like they either are lazy or have something to hide.

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    1. Pretty sure that's correct. Also, the only people who have to keep HIPAA are those in the medical profession. So the doctors, EMTs, etc who worked with Petrit are bound by it. Not the town of Amherst.

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  17. Excellent point Anon 1.05.16 Maybe MASS LE didnt disregard a hit&run and a UMass missing person within 24hrs-ish as just a coinky-dink...

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  18. I agree. Seems like someone is holding back on information for fear of leakage. If the statute of limitations has long since expired, why do they care? Very odd responses and what looks to me like a bunch of fibs.

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  19. I would go talk to a TV station. It is a compelling story. Get them to do a spot, and ask the city attorney or police chief for comment. Also, potentially get WBZ's lawyers behind you, for instance, as they clearly spend a lot time litigating matters like this.

    Would also be interesting to see whether the Murrays supported your attempt to get these records.

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  20. If there is a warrant in play against any party then the investigation in pursuit of that individual or corporation is active and open and that person or corporation has been "charged" and statute of limitations doesn't apply.

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