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Easthampton Murder Defendant Welch Again Denied Bail in Court Hearing Today

A bearded Ryan Welch, held without bail for the murder of Jessica Ann Pripstein Feb. 20, in court this morning with his lawyer, Paul Rodof, right. (Photo frame from WWLP-TV video)

A Northampton District Court Judge Again Denies Bail For Suspect Ryan Daniel Welch, While Prosecutor Says Welch Made an Earlier Knife Threat on Jessica Ann Pripstein’s Life, Telling Her that Police Would Never Take Him Alive.


By DAVID REID

NORTHAMPTON – Accused murderer Ryan Daniel Welch of Easthampton was again ordered held without bail today in connection with the stabbing death of Jessica Ann Pripstein, whom police found dead in her apartment Feb. 20 minutes after a harrowing E-911 phone call in which she said her boyfriend was trying to kill her.

Welch, represented by Paul Rudof of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, has pleaded not guilty to the crime.

Today’s pre-trial hearing was scheduled to take up not only the murder case but a drunk-driving arrest early on Valentine’s Day, when police said an intoxicated Welch struck a utility pole on Oliver Street, where he lived in subsidized housing. A police report then stated Welch told an officer he was drinking wine and had been in a fight with his girlfriend.

(To see Northampton Media’s story on the murder and Pripstein’s interrupted last words to a State Police dispatcher, click here.)

Murder victim Jessica Pripstein, who prosecutors now say Welch threatened to kill with a knife before the morning of her murder. (LinkedIn profile photo)

Within minutes after Pripstein’s 911 call to police shortly after midnight on Feb. 20, police broke into her locked and barricaded apartment at 27 Ward Ave. They found her dead on her bathroom floor from knife wounds and discovered Welch in a bedroom near death from self-inflicted cuts to his neck.

An Easthampton Fire Department ambulance crew rushed Welch, 36, to the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where he was stabilized and later arraigned on a murder charge.

In a subsequent interview with police at the hospital, Welch reportedly said he had returned to Pripstein’s apartment only to find her dead, and said he had slashed his own throat because he was distraught.

In court this morning, lawyer Rudof asked Judge Jacklyn Connly to release his client on $50,000 bail, but she ordered that he continue being held without bail pending trial. She also set April 27 as the date for a bind-over hearing for Welch, at which time his case would be sent up to Hampshire Superior Court, where all serious crimes are handled.

But Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan has told Northampton Media that, before that date, he expects a Hampshire Grand Jury will issue an indictment against Welch, which will automatically move the case to superior court for trial.

Welch appeared in court today wearing an orange jumpsuit with his heavy black beard only partially obscuring scars on his neck.

New Wrinkles in the Case Emerge During Brief Courtroom Hearing Today

A press release from Sullivan’s office detailed several interesting points made by lawyers on both sides of the case during today’s hearing. (Click here to see the DA’s entire press release.)

First, lawyer Rudolf said Welch had lived in the community for 10 years and “had a documented history of mental illness.”

Jessica Pripstein's apartment at 27 Ward Ave. Police responding to her interrupted 911 call kicked down the locked and barricaded front door after spotting a trail of blood inside. (Mary Serreze photo)

A police search of Welch’s 75 Oliver St., Easthampton apartment revealed he was taking a number of prescription drugs indicated for the treatment of depression, seizures and opiate addiction.

(To see our story on the returned search warrants for Welch’s and Pripstein’s apartments, click here.)

Rudof declined Northampton Media’s request for comment following today’s hearing, save to say that he is a public defender and that the grand jury decision on Welch’s indictment is expected soon.

Also in court today, Assistant DA Jeremy Bucci argued against bail, citing the seriousness of the crime. In support of his position, Bucci said Welch had made a previous threat to Pripstein’s life “involving a knife . . . at which time Welch allegedly told the victim that the police would not take him alive,” according to the DA’s press release.

Bucci could not be reached in time to comment for this story.

WWLP-TV, Channel 22, was present for today’s hearing. A short video of the hearing can be viewed by clicking here.

© 2011 Northampton Media

David Reid can be reached at dreid@northamptonmedia.com

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