SPRINGFIELD- Retired Westfield Police Det. Brian Fanion is being held without bail while awaiting a pretrial hearing Jan. 9 on charges of murder in connection to his wife’s death.
Fanion, 55, was indicted for murder Nov. 6 in the death of his wife Amy Fanion, 51, who died May 8, 2018. Her death was reported by Fanion as a suicide.
Investigators with the Massachusetts State Police found inconsistencies with the gathered evidence and Fanion’s statements, and began investigating her death as a homicide almost immediately.
Fanion Nov. 7 pleaded not guilty to the charge in Hampden Superior Court and his attorney, Jeffrey Brown, requested an immediate bail hearing. Superior Court Judge Francis Flannery denied the request.
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Mary Sandstrom, laid out the primary facts of the case during the arraignment. Fanion came home from work to have lunch on May 8, 2018 and argued with his wife. He said he was in the bathroom when she shot herself with his service weapon and he called the police. When Westfield Police arrived at the scene, they found Fanion next to his wife, with a single gunshot wound to the side of her head.
“Upon arrival, detectives received initial information that Brian Fanion, a Westfield Police detective at the time, was on-duty and went home for lunch. While home on his lunch break, he claimed, his wife used his service weapon to inflict a fatal wound upon herself. The Westfield Police and Fire Departments arrived on scene after Brian Fanion placed a 9-1-1 call. First responders immediately determined Amy Fanion to be deceased,” said a Hampden County District Attorney statement.
District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s office later was granted a warrant to search Fanion’s home for evidence and “for a high definition survey scan for various digital evidence items, including computers, tablets, and cellular devices. Forensic examinations were later conducted on these items that revealed incriminating evidence.”
The state medical examiner’s office found that the gun was not fired from right next to Amy’s head, but rather from a distance of about 18-inches away, which Sandstrom said would be impossible in a suicide. The angle at which the bullet went through, from above and behind the right ear according to prosecutors, was also inconsistent with a suicide.
Sandstrom said that Brian Fanion was having an affair at the time with another woman. An investigation into text messages and Brian Fanion’s search history revealed a pattern in which he expressed concern over divorcing his wife because of how that may affect his police pension and retirement.
She continued by saying that Brian’s search history revealed that he had been looking up the state medical examiners office, apartments for rent in the area, common poisons, and common sources of radiation just hours before the time of his wife’s death.
Sandstrom said that the Commonwealth was seeking to have Brian Fanion held without bail as he was a flight risk. She also noted that Amy Fanion was not known to have had any mental health disorders that are associated with a risk of suicide.
The defense attorney, Jeffrey Brown maintained that Fanion was not guilty of murder and that he would not be a flight risk if released on bail, citing that he had remained in Westfield for 17 months after Amy Fanion’s death.
Brown also noted that Amy Fanion had kept a diary in which the final entry was written six days before her death. In it she wrote a passage from the Bible that Brown said is often associated with one’s impending death. Sandstrom later pointed out that her diary was filled with religious passages.
Brown then said that Amy Fanion’s hair would have prevented residue from the gunshot from being detected near the bullet wound, but Sandstrom said that hair is typically not thick enough to make that sort of difference. She said that the lack of residue from the gunshot is almost certainly due to the distance at which it was fired.
Fanion retired from the Westfield Police Department shortly after his wife’s death, at the time citing that his own service pistol was used.
Brown then read from a letter sent by members of Amy Fanion’s family in which they expressed their support for Brian Fanion. He said that Amy Fanion did suffer from depression and that she had stopped taking her medications in favor of herbal supplements.
He also disputed the nature of the affair between Brian Fanion and the alleged mistress, saying that it was more of a friendship and was not sexual.
Sandstrom responded by saying that the other woman had admitted to sharing a kiss with Brian the day after Amy’s death.
Westfield Police Chief Lawrence P. Valliere said the death and investigation are “sad.”
“This truly has been a sad situation for the department since the day of the incident,” said Valliere. “Most all of the current officers, but especially all of the recently retired officers, were friendly with Brian and his wife. It was devastating to learn of her death and now witness the arrest of Brian for her murder. We are a close-knit department and honestly affected by what happens in each others lives. At this point the situation is in the hands of our justice system.”
Valliere added that Westfield Police were not involved in the investigation beyond their response to the initial incident.
Brian Fanion is due in court for a pre-trial hearing on Jan. 9, 2020 at Hampden Superior Court.