SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 4, 2013

Judge blames Beverly police

Brennan says department's 'utter lack of follow-up' led to acquittal in assault case

(Continued)

Witnesses testified that the responding officers ordered potential witnesses at the party to leave — sending many college students who had been drinking to their cars, according to the students themselves — and failed to take down the names of any of the partygoers besides the victim, the suspect (Eppley), the victim’s cousin Nicholas Tagnieri, and a fourth man, Harry Holden, Eppley’s best friend.

The officers, identified in a police report as David Grimes, Edward Hathorn and Sgt. John Vitale, relied solely on the victim’s identification of Eppley, whom he had seen in a darkened, strobe-lit kitchen in the 9 Mason St. apartment and then again outside the house in the early morning hours of Dec. 11, 2011.

The victim testified that he and Eppley exchanged words after he told Eppley to leave because police were on their way. The victim said he thought Tagnieri, who was hosting the party, wanted everyone out.

Eppley, a lacrosse teammate of Tagnieri, allegedly refused and swore at the victim, who was up from Northeastern that night visiting his cousin.

The victim testified that he grabbed Eppley’s arm, but then Eppley pulled away and swung around, his fist raised. The victim said he closed his eyes, anticipating a blow. The next thing he felt was blood pouring out of his face, he said.

The victim acknowledged that he didn’t see what hit him. He, and later police, surmised that it was a bottle. But no broken bottle was ever found by officers.

The officers told two party guests who were cleaning blood and broken glass off the floor to just keep cleaning up, never securing the crime scene or returning to look for whatever it was that sliced the victim’s face open, the witnesses testified.

When police saw the blood-covered kitchen floor, one officer yelled, “Hey, who spilled the jungle juice?” Ryan Sutherland, an Endicott student who attended the party, testified.

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