CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB) — ABC40 has exclusively obtained a letter sent almost one year ago from Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni to Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette regarding cell phone pictures taken at the murder scene of Amanda Plasse back in August of 2011.
It was the job of Chicopee Police officers to secure the scene while detectives responded, but they snapped personal cell phone pictures of Amanda’s body that were circulated both in and outside the Chicopee Police Department.
Mastroianni candidly addressed the incident saying in his letter to Bissonnette that “the officers who took a photograph of the victim created the very interference which they were obligated to protect.”
The letter is dated October 4th, 2012 so we asked the mayor why he waited until June 2013, some eight months later, to tell both the public and Amanda’s family.
“Internal affairs are a little bit different than regular criminal investigations. We don’t always put the police dirt laundry out so that everyone can see it,” Bissonnette said. “Whether that’s something that people understand or not, I’m not sure. I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be bandied about about trying to sweep this under the rug because certainly we haven’t.”
Bissonnette says the situation was announced to clear up circulating rumors.
In the letter, Mastroianni wrote “by their behavior and later dissemination of the photographs, they subjected the victim and family of the victim to a great indignity.”
Michelle Mathieson, Amanda’s mom, says she heard nothing of the incident until it was all over the news.
“I strongly believe that morally and ethically it was wrong, It was wrong for nobody to come to us as a family and discuss the situation that had occurred,” Mathieson says.
Mastroianni says the pictures could cause issues in court during prosecution. He wrote it wasn’t his authority to punish police misconduct when it is not criminal, but did say “Please advise me of any administrative action taken by you so I may note our case file accordingly.”
Two years after the incident, and one year after Bissonnette received this letter, the officers involved still have not been disciplined, outside of a written warning by the former police chief.
“If in fact this had been brought to my attention at the outset, I think the results would have been a little bit different, but the reality is that it wasn’t so we have to take measured steps now because of the time lag,” Bissonnette said.
An outside investigator is reviewing this case over 40 other internal police issues. Bissonnette says he hopes to see a final report in several weeks and expects serious discipline could come as a result, including termination of officers.
That process has been slowed because at least one former assistant district attorney involved in the investigation had to step out for possible conflict of interests.
Bissonnette maintains that when all is said and done, the process will be a fair one.
Detectives are still searching for Amanda’s killer. There is a $10,000 dollar reward for any information that leads to an arrest.