NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A city woman Monday pleaded not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court in the death of her grandmother.
Kelsie C. Cote, 26, of 22 Rich St., is charged with murder, assault to murder and evidence tampering in the death of Doris A. Cote, 74, of 300 Church St.
Through her attorney, Brockton's Kevin Reddington, Kelsie Cote entered her pleas before Judge Paul M. Vrabel in an arraignment that lasted a few minutes.
Reddington said his client agreed to voluntary detention in the case with her next court appearance scheduled for Jan. 9.
Also during the arraignment, the Berkshire District Attorney's Office amended the complaint against Kelsie Cote to say the offense occurred on or about Oct. 31 to Nov. 1.
According to a North Adams Police affidavit filed in support of probable cause, police received a call from Tobe Cote, father of Kelsie Cote, at about 4 p.m. that Tuesday reporting that he had found his mother at the bottom of the stairs at the residence where Doris Cote lived alone.
"The investigation determined that Kelsie Cote was the last person to see her grandmother alive," District Attorney Andrea Harrington said in a statement outside the courthouse on Monday afternoon. "She reported finding her grandmother deceased on the morning of Nov. 1. Kelsie Cote was one of two people with access to the home in addition to her grandmother."
Harrington said Kelsie Cote told police that she found her grandmother dead at the bottom of the basement stairs at 10 a.m. on Nov. 1 but did not call for help until 4 p.m., when she contacted Tobe Cote.
"She admits that she attempted to clean up the scene and that she interfered with her grandmother's body," Harrington said. "Her statement was inconsistent with the evidence in many regards, including that she claimed that she left her grandmother's residence at 7:30 at night on the evening of Halloween, but evidence shows that she actually left after midnight on the morning of Nov. 1.
"She claimed that she found her grandmother at the bottom of the stairs, but there was evidence of a violent assault that occurred in an upstairs room. And the evidence suggests that the body was dragged to the stairs."
The police report says investigators found, "apparent bloody footprints and drag marks … leading from the main living level hallway through the kitchen and down the basement stairs."
Prior to Monday's arraignment, Reddington declined an offer from reporters in the courtroom to speak on the record after the proceeding.
Harrington said that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Westfield found Doris Cote, "suffered from bruising at the base of her neck, the center of her forehead, the bridge of her nose or left cheek and her left ear. There were seven total wounds that were primarily about her head."
A preliminary autopsy report included in the police affidavit cited "four sharp force injuries located on the backside of the victim's head."
"Doctor [Andrew] Elin advised that nothing other than a sharp object could have caused these wounds," the affidavit reads.
"There's also evidence that Kelsie Cote tried to conceal evidence of bloody clothes and potential weapons in trash bags that were located in her automobile," Harrington said on Monday.
According to the affidavit, Kelsie Cote was interviewed twice by police prior to her arrest.
In her statements to police, Kelsie Cote said that she found Doris Cote's body, she "freaked out and did not want to accept that Doris was gone. … Kelsie stated she just laid there with her," according to the affidavit.
Police say Kelsie Cote also told police in an interview that she did eventually attempt to clean up the house after finding Doris Cote's body.
"She went upstairs to contain herself," the police affidavit reads. "While Kelsie was upstairs, she observed blood in the hallway and kitchen. The majority of the blood was in the computer room. The blood appeared to be crusty and black. Kelsie cleaned the blood because Doris was a clean freak."
"Kelsie stated Doris keeps an extremely tidy, clean house," the affidavit reads at another point. "Kelsie reported trying to clean up the [home's] Office and blood in the kitchen and hallway. Kelsie reported removing Doris' shirt because it was already half off and that her grandmother had previously requested putting normal clothing on her if she had ever passed."
Harrington, the District Attorney, said Monday there was no evidence of injuries to Doris Cote prior to the events that lead to her death.
"We do not have any evidence of a history of abuse," Harrington said. "The investigation has uncovered that Doris Cote was not in a dating relationship. And the evidence so far all indicates that there were no concerns in terms of her safety prior to the incident."
Harrington said that Kelsie Cote is the only suspect in the case and that the investigation is ongoing.
Harrington declined to speculate on a motive in the death of Doris Cote.
The police affidavit in support of probable cause includes a photocopy of Doris Cote's will, which names Kelsie C. Cote as an heir.
"During the search of the residence, investigators alerted to a collection of financial statements from various stock/mutual holdings that presented in the name of Doris Cote," the affidavit reads. "Unofficial estimates have been concluded to exceed more than $1,000,000. A checking account also in the name of Doris Cote was located. The balance in the account was more than $80,000."