CHARLESTOWN — When the Rhode Island State Police issued an alert Sunday morning seeking help in locating a man wanted in connection with a Saturday murder in Massachusetts, local officers immediately began to check throughout the community.
That effort led to the discovery of a car belonging to the suspect, 32-year-old Steven Fregeolle, and it triggered a search involving agencies from across the state that ended with emergency officials locating Fregeolle, who was found dead around 6:30 p.m. in the Francis C. Carter Memorial Preserve.
“The effort came together quickly. We were able to establish a unified command (with state police) and combine assets,” said Charlestown Police Chief Michael Paliotta. “It was a true team effort and we had help from across the state.”
The search for Fregeolle, a Johnston, R.I., man, began Saturday night after he was allegedly involved in the death of 37-year-old Brandi Berg, of Riverside, R.I. Police in Massachusetts said Berg was found around 6 p.m. Saturday at the Fashion Crossing Plaza on Route 1 in North Attleboro.
Berg, who had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, the police said, was taken to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead. The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office in New Bedford, Mass., confirmed Monday that the courts had signed off on an arrest warrant for Fregeolle, who was expected to be charged with murder.
Fregeolle was the only suspect in the case, officials said.
Paliotta said after obtaining the warrant, Massachusetts State Police contacted Rhode Island troopers to share information that he may be “somewhere in rural southern Rhode Island.”
“Our officers were aware that our community fit the description and they attempted to do a check, which led us to find the suspect’s car,” Paliotta said.
Late Sunday morning, just before noon and less than 18 hours after the original incident, Charlestown Police Sgt. David Westervelt located the car in the parking lot at the main entrance to the preserve near the intersection of Route 112 and Old Mill Road.
The discovery triggered statewide efforts to find Fregeolle, who Paliotta noted was was considered “armed and dangerous” and may be anywhere within the more than 900-acre preserve. As a precaution, he said, several roads in the area were closed and the town’s Code Red emergency alert system was used to notify all residents within two miles of the police presence.
To assure proper safety protocols were being followed and to enhance communications between agencies, Rhode Island State Police and Charlestown police set up a unified command center in the parking lot of the nearby Meadow Brook Inn — Paliotta said the owner was not just cooperative, but supportive of the police efforts — while some of the earliest responders on scene began to close off the park and evacuate those on the preserve.
“We were looking for a man with a gun who was wanted in a murder case. Our first concern was the safety of residents and those in the area,” he said.
To help meet the vast needs, Paliotta said “about three-quarters of our department was called in to help.” He also credited Hopkinton police, and said volunteers with the Charlestown-Richmond Fire Department also assisted in setting a perimeter and keeping guests from entering the search area.
A team of approximately 50 law enforcement officers was then split into search teams, with each led by a K-9 unit.
Police K-9s from Richmond, Narragansett, Woonsocket, Rhode Island State Police and the Department of Environmental Management were all involved in the search. Other agencies involved included the Narragansett Tribal Police and both the North Kingstown and South Kingstown police departments. Providence Canteen also assisted, providing food and water for those taking part in the search.
Around 6:30 p.m., only a few short hours into a search that police said was “ready to go all night,” Paliotta said one of the teams found Fregeolle’s body in a search grid approximately a quarter-mile north of where the car was located. Police did not confirm the cause or manner of death.
Paliotta praised the efforts of his team, the state police and all those involved. He said he couldn’t be more proud of the way all those involved kept an open line of communication and were able to bring a quick conclusion to the search.
“This was truly a team effort, a statewide effort really,” Paliotta said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of the way everyone worked together.”
A message seeking further comment from the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office was not returned. Further details of the case were not released Monday.
The case remains active and is being investigated by detectives with the North Attleboro Police Department and Massachusetts State Police.