Local man charged with 25 car breaks

A Haverhill man facing 25 counts of breaking and entering to commit a felony, burglary and larceny of property valued over $1,200 was ordered held without bail after his arraignment in Salem Superior Court last week.

Nathan Whittier, 27, of 23 Warren St., is accused of breaking into cars and stealing cash, personal documents, a checkbook, firearm and ammunition and even a birthday card during a two-day stretch in March.

The Essex County grand jury indicted him recently on more than two dozen charges, triggering his superior court arraignment. The punishment Whittier faces if he is convicted will be more severe because the case has moved to superior court.

Held in the courtroom prisoner's dock at last week's arraignment, Whittier pleaded not guilty after the long list of charges was read aloud by a clerk.

A prosecutor asked for Whittier to be held without bail pending a dangerous hearing. Judge Thomas Dreschler scheduled the hearing for July 12.

Whittier's court-appointed defense attorney, Timothy Connors, did not object.

Whittier was previously deemed a danger by a Haverhill District Court judge and ordered held without bail at Middleton Jail, according to court records.

The indictments indicate the crimes occurred between March 22 and 23.

Whittier also was indicted on a single felony count of unarmed burglary and assault, stemming from a Feb. 3 incident at a Haverhill home, according to court records.

Whittier was arrested by Haverhill police March 27 and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and an outstanding warrant.

The arrest was made at 40 Central St., according to the Haverhill police log from that day.

Whittier is facing nine larceny charges for stealing cash, a ring, checkbooks, a firearm with ammunition, a gift card and birthday card, and photocopies of personal documents from multiple victims, according to the indictments.

Also, Whittier is charged with 15 counts of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle at night, a felony charge, according to the indictments.

— Jill Harmacinski


Jaffarian family celebrates opening of car showroom

The exotic scent of incense wafted through the newly renovated Volvo showroom at Jaffarian Volvo on River Street when Father Vart Gyozalyan held a traditional Armenian blessing for the Jaffarian family and their employees.

"Before I start the special occasion blessing, I would like to mention the Jaffarian family is a big supporter of the community and the church," Gyozalyan said. "By the way, I'm a Volvo owner and I love these cars."

His prayer and blessing for this fourth-generation run dealership to prosper was followed by a talk by Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA, who was there to be part of a recent ribbon-cutting for the new $1.5 million showroom designed with the goal of providing customers with the "Volvo Retail Experience."

He praised the Jaffarian dealership for selling twice as many Volvos as other dealerships of its size.

"Something is different here," he joked. "You should save your secret sauce for your team."

Gustafsson said the Jaffarian family was asked to follow strict guidelines in creating their new showroom to Volvo's specifications. Gustafsson noted that out of the 300 Volvo dealerships in the United States, he allowed the Jaffarian family one singular exemption to the showroom design, and that was to let them decorate it with historical Jaffarian family photographs that were enlarged in size.

"Normally they are not allowed to have those pictures, but the pictures here I really like, so I told them to put them on the walls," Gustafsson said.

The Jaffarian dealership moved into its new location on River Street in 2003. Demolition of the dealership's Volvo showroom began last October to meet the new design style of Volvo dealerships across the country.

"This is something that most of the European luxury brand manufacturers have," Gary Jaffarian said prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new showroom. "I was happy with what we had, but this offers an entirely new experience for our customers."

From the new dropped ceilings to chic new furniture to new flooring and sales offices with glass fronts, the showroom is nothing like the one that preceded it.

"We also redid our service reception area and gave our service department a re-freshening," Jaffarian said. "All of our Volvo customer areas are new, as is the front reception area."

He noted that his family-run dealership won the Volvo Excellence Award for three years in a row and that Jaffarian's is the only Volvo dealer in the United States to have done that.

— Mike LaBella


Motor vehicle head resigns over crash that killed local man, 6 others

The head of the Massachusetts motor vehicle division has resigned after her agency failed to terminate the commercial drivers license of a man whose collision with a group of motorcyclists on a rural New Hampshire road left seven bikers dead, including a Haverhill native.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of negligent homicide.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack said in a statement that the state Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to act on information provided by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles about a drunken driving arrest involving Zhukovskyy.

Pollack said the arrest should have cost him his commercial driving license. As a result, she accepted the resignation of Erin Deveney.

Among the motorcyclists killed in the crash was former Haverhill resident Albert Mazza Jr., 59, of Lee, New Hampshire. He grew up in Haverhill and has several relatives in the city.

Manny Ribeiro, who survived the crash, said the resignation from the head of the Massachusetts motor vehicle division was just one of many revelations about the driver that indicated the crash could have been prevented. But Ribeiro said it also felt "like someone was running around from the problem."

"We just get to quit and walk away and that's it," Ribeiro said. "Story over. See you later until the next time it happens and then the next person steps down. This is what happens every single time."

Connecticut prosecutors said Zhukovskyy was arrested May 11 in a Walmart parking lot in East Windsor after failing a sobriety test. Zhukovskyy's lawyer in that case, John O'Brien, said he denies being intoxicated and will fight the charge.

Zhukovskyy, a driver for a transport company who has a history of traffic arrests, was ordered Tuesday to remain in preventive detention, with a judge saying his driving record poses a potential danger to the public and himself.

The plea was entered by Zhukovskyy's attorney Melissa Davis in Coos County Court in Lancaster, New Hampshire. Zhukovskyy remains behind bars there. Davis didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Dodge pickup Zhukovskyy was driving was towing a flatbed trailer and collided with the motorcycles in Randolph, investigators say. He was driving erratically and crossed the center line, according to criminal complaints.

A survivor of the crash said the trailer wiped out most of the bikers behind him.

Zhukovskyy was arrested at his home in Massachusetts and handed over to New Hampshire authorities after a court appearance that day.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Nov. 8, with the trial running through December.

Police in Texas told several media outlets that Zhukovskyy also crashed a tractor trailer in suburban Houston earlier this month. Zhukovskyy told police that he had been cut off, causing him to lose control of the truck. He was not charged.

Zhukovskyy was also arrested on a drunken driving charge in 2013 in Westfield, Massachusetts, state records show. He was placed on probation for one year and had his license suspended for 210 days, The Westfield News reported.

Zhukovskyy's father said his son is a Ukrainian national and has permanent resident status in the U.S. The younger Zhukovskyy's court file includes a recent letter from a deportation officer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement requesting details on his 2017 heroin and cocaine convictions.

Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicate that the company Zhukovskyy was driving for at the time of the motorcycle crash, Westfield Transport, has been cited for various violations in the past two years, MassLive.com reported.

Phone calls to the company seeking its comment went unanswered. The owner has previously said he was cooperating with the investigation.

The crash victims were members or supporters of the Marine JarHeads, a New England motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses. The victims ranged in age from 42 to 62. Four were from New Hampshire, two from Massachusetts and one from Rhode Island.

Ribeiro said he just remembers an "explosion" and the trailer from the truck wiping out most of the bikers behind him. The crash would not have been so deadly, he said, if not for the trailer.

After the crash, Ribeiro recalled seeing Zhukovskyy "screaming and running around" in the road before authorities arrived and took him away.

Besides former Haverhill resident Mazza, the people killed were identified as Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord, New Hampshire; Aaron Perry, 45, of Farmington, New Hampshire; Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, Rhode Island; and Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, of Lakeville, Massachusetts.

— Associated Press


Jajuga will not run for re-election 

James Jajuga isn't sure what he'll add next to his already extensive resume, but it's not a second term as mayor of Methuen.

Jajuga, 72, former head of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, said he is not seeking re-election.

The one-term mayor and two-time former city councilor said his public announcement last week hinged on the approval earlier this month of a strong 2020 budget. That, and a series of structural changes to Methuen's government, led to the decision to step away from City Hall.

"I wanted to be sure that my successor had a really solid foundation here," Jajuga said, "and I'm confident about that now."

Jajuga became mayor in 2017. He was on the City Council as the budget crisis set of financial turmoil across the city — the School Department overspent its budget by $4 million and superior police officers were granted contracts that would have seen police captains making $434,841 on average.

The overspending landed the city with a temporary state overseer and a new government structure – the Department of Administration and Finance headed by newly named Chief Administrative and Financial Officer (or CAFO) Maggie Duprey.

"It's the right time for me to step away," Jajuga said last week. "I'm proud of the position we've put this city in moving forward."

Earlier in his career, Jajuga served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps with an honorable discharge and rose through the ranks of the Massachusetts State Police for two decades. He spent 10 years as a state senator, and was appointed as secretary of public safety under Gov. Jane Swift in 2001.

After years of state-level service, Jajuga became involved locally, serving as president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce before joining the Methuen City Council. He also has experience as a lobbyist for his own firm.

Becoming mayor, he said, brought all of those experiences together.

"I think I was the right guy at the right time to help get the city on track," he said.

Jajuga said he isn't sure what his next job will be or who is most likely to lead Methuen next.

"It's still early," he said, noting that the filing period is open until the end of July.

He said he is unsure if he'll endorse anyone.

"I'll be watching the campaigns unfold," he said. "But whoever is my successor, they're working with a community that is put back together after being torn apart."

— Breanna Edelstein


Health officials want studies of natural gas projects

Local officials are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to require studies of health and safety risks before approving any new natural gas infrastructure.

In separate letters, boards of health representing 100 communities including Methuen, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead and Essex raise a variety of concerns about the state's reliance on natural gas as a fuel source. They’ve asked the state to create a public health campaign aimed at educating energy consumers about the possible dangers.

Health officials cite studies suggesting a link between stove-top cooking using gas, and high rates of childhood asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Others note the increased air pollution from thousands of leaks along natural gas lines that — not to mention the hazards of explosions and fires.

They want the Baker administration to require assessments for any new natural gas projects to gauge potential risks to the public.

"Our current reliance on natural gas is harmful to human health during extraction, shipment, delivery and use," said Dr. Madeleine Scammell, an environmental health professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, at a briefing last week. "Investments in gas infrastructure should require full assessment of the physical and chemical hazards."

Exposure to indoor air pollution from cooking with fossil fuels is a leading factor in childhood asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, heart disease and lung cancer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pregnant women exposed to household air pollution from cooking are at increased risk for stillbirth and other complications.

The letter-writing campaign is part of an ongoing effort by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to accelerate a shift to wind, solar and renewable energies.

Several panelists at last week's Statehouse briefing are fighting an air quality permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.

Energy company Enbridge wants to build the station near the Fore River as part of its Atlantic Bridge project to connect natural gas pipeline infrastructure. The state issued an air-quality permit for the facility, a key step toward final approval, in January, but residents in Weymouth, Quincy, Hingham and Braintree are appealing.

Aside from the costs, opponents say the station and other natural gas infrastructure only deepens the state's dependence on a fossil fuel whose emissions have been blamed, in part, for climate change.

Industry officials say gas is a clean alternative to burning coal and oil, and they argue that solar and wind producers alone cannot provide enough energy to meet the state's demand.

Baker wants the state to pursue a mix of hydro power, solar and wind to meet its long-term energy needs as well as a court-ordered mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

His administration placed a temporary moratorium on the approval of new gas projects following the fires and explosions that ripped through the Merrimack Valley in September, killing a teenager, injuring more than two-dozen and damaging homes.

The state has also hired a private consulting firm to assess the safety of the gas distribution system.

While many of the battles over pipeline expansions have largely focused on environmental costs and safety concerns, officials say health risks shouldn't be overlooked.

Steve Jones, a retired physician and volunteer for the Sierra Club, said many people just aren't aware of the serious health risks.

"Those familiar blue flames on a gas stove produce nitrogen dioxide, which is a potent respiratory irritant," he said at last week's briefing. "Unfortunately many parents, public health staff and boards of health do not know that gas stove cooking increases the risk of asthma."

— Christian M. Wade



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