ORANGE, MASS. (WHDH) - An Athol man accused of killing a Leominster woman whose body was found at a wastewater treatment plant last week has been ordered held without bail.
Keith Hamel, 23, was arraigned in Orange District Court following his arrest Monday on a warrant charging him with the murder of 26-year-old Kelsey Clifford, according to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
Clifford’s body was found outside the entrance to the Athol Wastewater Treatment Facility on Jones Street during the early-morning hours of Nov. 11.
Emotions ran high in the courtroom on Tuesday where one family grieved the loss of a beloved family member and another family insisting police have the wrong man.
“I want to look into his eyes and see if he has a soul because how can you do that to somebody,” Clifford’s cousin Shiane Cordio asked. “Her son, he’s 4-years-old and now he is never even going to know his mom.”
Police claim Hamel is the last person to be seen with Clifford in the early hours of Nov. 11.
“He was last seen getting out of her car on the passenger side at 1:30 a.m.,” according to officials.
She allegedly died as the result of multiple blunt force traumas. Drops of Clifford’s blood were also found on a sweatshirt Hamel left behind at the scene, police said.
“They were able to discern Miss. Clifford’s DNA in a sample of human blood that was recovered from the sweatshirt and they were able to discern Mr. Hamel’s DNA from inside the sleeve,” Prosecutor Jeremy Bucci said. “So-called wearer DNA”
A large group of Clifford’s family members left her funeral services to attend the arraignment.
“Very, very tough week as you can imagine but we just talked about all the good memories and how much fun she was growing up and it was an awesome mass,” one loved one said.
Friends of Hamel came to his defense insisting he is innocent despite his long criminal history.
“I know him. He is the brother I didn’t get,” one man said outside the courthouse. “He didn’t do this. He shouldn’t be rotting away, wasting time in there. They should go find who really did it and go penalize him. You guys have got the wrong dude.
Those who knew both the suspect and the victim say they knew each other through Clifford’s boyfriend.
Why they were together that night remains a mystery.
“He gets jail time? OK good for you. But, you’re still above ground. It’s not OK,” Corido said.
An official cause of death has not been announced.
Athol police and state police assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office are investigating.
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