A Massachusetts man was in court on a murder charge Tuesday in the death of a Leominster woman whose body was found last week near a wastewater treatment plant in Athol.
Keith Hamel, 23, of Athol, was arraigned on a single murder count in Orange District Court. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
Hamel was arrested on a warrant Monday on suspicion of killing 26-year-old Kelsey Clifford, according to the Northwestern District Attorney's Office.
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Clifford's body was found Nov. 11 near the entrance to the facility of Athol's wastewater treatment plant on Jones Street. Her body was discovered with multiple injuries consistent with blunt force trauma, according to prosecutors.
"He was last seen getting out of her car on the passenger side at 1:30 a.m. at the Cumberland Farms in Athol," Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Bucci said in court.
Clifford's body was found just before 7 a.m. A sweatshirt was found between the crime scene and Hamel's home with Hamel's DNA on the inside and Clifford's blood on the outside, according to prosecutors.
"We don't know what happened, we don't know how it happened, it's nothing but speculation at this point," defense attorney John Morris said.
Shiane Cordio said her cousin did not deserve to die and that Clifford's 4-year-old son didn't deserve to loose his mother.
"She was amazing and she was very free-spirited. I do not believe that any time that they give Keith is going to be justice enough and I want to look into his eyes and see if he has a soul because how can you do that to somebody?" Cordio said.
Clifford, a 2011 graduate of St. Bernard's High School, leaves behind her son, her parents, grandparents and a sister, according to her obituary.
A wake for Clifford was held Monday evening in Leominster. According to her obituary, funeral services were private.
In addition to Hamel's attorney, his family and close friends adamantly defended him outside of court Tuesday.
"That's not Keith. He's not capable of that kind of thing," Hamel's friend Markus Luchock said. "He shouldn't be rotting away wasting time in there. They should be finding who really did it and go penalize him, you guys got the wrong dude."
"He's charged with the worst crime you can be charged with. He's accused of killing someone, so his state of mind is he's scared and he's adamant that he didn't do it," Morris added.
Hamel was ordered held without bail and is due back in court Feb. 14, 2020.