PITTSFIELD -- In a loud and clear voice, a North Adams man pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges that he beat and stabbed to death an elderly neighbor in her home last month.
David A. Delratez, 41, of Walker Street, appeared in Berkshire Superior Court for his arraignment on Wednesday, shackled and wearing jail-issued clothing. His court-appointed attorney, Nathaniel K. Green, stood by his side.
He was ordered to remain held without bail.
Delratez is accused of murdering 84-year-old Ellen DePaoli in her home before fleeing in her car. The defendant was a friend of the woman's son and a frequent visitor to the DePaoli home, police said.
DePaoli's body was discovered by North Adams police on Sept. 17 inside her Walker Street home after they received a 911 call reporting her death. Police said there were no signs of forced entry into the home or of a struggle.
Delratez was arrested two days later in Bennington, Vt. Police recovered the woman's 2005 Ford Taurus sedan and the knife they believed was used in the killing in Bennington.
After his arrest, Delratez allegedly denied killing the woman, telling police he was called to the residence by a drug dealer he knew as "Jim Jim" and another man and that DePaoli was already injured when he arrived.
He said he was forced to drive the woman's car to New York state before he drove the vehicle to Bennington, where he stayed with a friend.
Delratez pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and larceny of a motor vehicle, as well as unrelated charges of breaking and entering for a misdemeanor, malicious destruction of property under $250, and use of a motor vehicle without authority charges. Police say the defendant broke into his ex-wife's home and used her car without her permission on Sept. 13.
Judge John A. Agostini ordered Delratez to remain held without bail at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction under an agreement between Second Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Robert W. Kinzer III and Green. The defense attorney may request a hearing in the future to ask for bail for his client.
"I love you," Delratez told his family as he was being led out of the courtroom by court security guards.
A pretrial hearing in the case was set for April 30.