GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 25, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? Seeking our own answers amid death probe silence

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
Ray Lamont

---- — It was late Saturday morning when we first got word that there had been some sort of overnight incident that had led to a man’s death in LePage Lane.

And given the questions still swirling around the case a week later, you can imagine that gleaning information within hours of the incident was difficult.

I first called Gloucester police, and told a detective on duty that someone on our news team had heard from an emergency responder that there had been a “suspicious death” overnight. I said we were simply looking to confirm that, and were looking to get some information as to what may have happened.

The detective confirmed that there had been an “incident,” but that any information would have to come from the police chief, from Massachusetts State Police, or from the Essex District Attorney’s office — and that’s not at all unusual. While our reporters routinely deal with police officers and pick up logs and police reports virtually every day, a complex case such as this — especially when it’s still under investigation — often crosses jurisdictional lines, and that can make information more difficult to come by.

Indeed, I called and spoke with Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello, who said his understanding was that information should be forthcoming from the DA’s office. And Carrie Kimball Monahan, who regularly speaks for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, took my call and issued a statement through the office a short time later.

It confirmed that police and detectives assigned to the DA’s office were actively investigating an “incident” that led to a man’s death, that it involved a vehicle and had drawn a 911 call to 39 LePage Lane, that the driver was “cooperating” with police, and no charges were filed. A short time later, she then updated that statement with the name of the deceased, who turned out to be a 29-year-old Salem man.

Since that time neither the DA’s office nor Gloucester police have issued any statements or comments at all. Yet, if you’ve seen our coverage this week, you know we’ve been able to report a lot details about what reportedly occurred, though it’s important to note that no charges have yet been filed, and that a lot of questions remain.

So, how did we obtain the information you’ve read about the case — a case reportedly tied to a domestic incident involving a local woman and a Haverhill man who was the driver of the car and the father of the woman’s child? A case that no one, including the DA’s office, is calling an “accident”?

In most cases, we gleaned it through some investigative and detective work ourselves.

While it was clear that a full police report would be tied up as long as it covered an ongoing investigation, staff writer Marjorie Nesin recognized that the initial log and very preliminary report would be available by Monday. And it was — listing the name of the driver and confirming that he had agreed to go to the Gloucester police station to be interviewed by city police at around 4 a.m., more than two hours after the incident.

But a more thorough picture of the incident emerged on Tuesday, beginning with a Pond View neighbor calling to let us know that he believed authorities had cited the wrong address as the incident scene. Marjorie realized that he knew more than that; he had at least heard what had happened outside, he had been on the scene within perhaps a minute of the incident, and he was willing to go on record recounting what he knew, as he no doubt did for police at the scene.

Now, no one from Gloucester police, or the DA’s office has confirmed his story — which supported what we had been hearing from other sources over the weekend. So, should we have used the witness in our reports? Why would your community’s newspaper do that?

Because this witness — who was willing to go on record by name — proved very credible, considering what we had heard previously. And I felt we had uncovered credible information that would help you, our readers, gain a clearer sense of what occurred, even without any formal announcements from law enforcement officials or anyone else.

It’s not our duty to wait for formal announcements from any officials; it is our duty to provide you with the news you need and deserve to know, as soon as we know it. And that was our focus in covering this case this week.

As always, let me know what you think.

Questions? Comments? Is there a topic you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3432, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.