Year in review: New chiefs for police and fire, two homicide investigations and an officer arrested

The display of candles and flowers was set up as a memorial to Alexis  Avery on the side of the gazebo in Park Square, which Avery and her class helped to build. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD- 2019 was an interesting year in the world of law enforcement and first responders in the City of Westfield. 

While criminal activity did not make any noticeable change overall from 2018, the city was quickly shocked with the news of a homicide in early January. Blake Scanlon, a 23-year-old Westfield resident, called the police on himself to report that he had killed his girlfriend, Alexis Avery, 20, less than two days prior. When police arrived to the scene at 92 White St., they found Avery’s body in the apartment with what appeared to have been multiple stab wounds.

Scanlon himself reportedly had been found with multiple self-inflicted lacerations on his arms. 

Scanlon was arraigned shortly after where he plead not guilty to the homicide charge. He still awaits trial and his case was moved to Springfield Superior Court.

A second homicide would take place later in the year in September, when Nazar Tkach, 17, was killed in Stanley Park, having apparently been stabbed to death during the night. Tkach’s alleged killer, Vadym Misiruk, 19, was taken into custody the day after the murder is believed to have happened. 

Former Police Chief John Camerota, left), with Police Chief Lawrence Valliere. (Photo by Peter Currier)

Police Chief Lawrence P. Valliere said that the two notable homicides in Westfield in 2019 were not indicative of any sort of crime trends in the city. Rather, they were two incidents that stemmed from personal issues between the victims and suspects.

“The murder on White Street could happen behind any door,” said Valliere, “In Stanley Park, you just had a bad actor that was going to act on whatever he was feeling.”

Valliere himself is one of two first responder officials who took over as the head of their respective department this year. Valliere took over as Chief of Police in June following the retirement of longtime Chief John Camerota. When Camerota stepped down in June, he had claim to the record of longest serving police chief in the city’s history. 

Valliere was selected chief by a vote in an April Police Commission meeting. 

The position of Fire Chief had been filled by Patrick Egloff, who entered 2019 as one of the department’s Deputy Fire Chiefs. He took the role in May after former Chief Mary Regan retired in July, 2018. Deputy Chief Andy Hart took the role of Acting Fire Chief for several months in the interim, with Egloff being the Acting Chief for a few months after Hart stepped down from the role. 

Another major incident in 2018 came to be relevant again in 2019 with the discovery of new information and the completion of an investigation. 

Ret. Officer Brian Fanion was arrested and arraigned in November for the apparent murder of his wife in May of 2018. After originally considering it a suicide, the State Police began investigating Fanion when they realized that his story had some inconsistencies. At his arraignment where he plead not guilty, prosecutors argued that Fanion had killed his wife and staged it as a suicide in order to avoid losing his police pension if he had simply divorced her. 

Fanion is due back in court on Jan. 9 for a pre-trial hearing.

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