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Fearful 911 calls in Needham released

Police say chaos led to arrest of innocent visitor

Email|Print| Text size + By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / November 6, 2007

The terror in the woman's voice is unmistakable.

"Oh my God, we need someone here," she tells a Needham police dispatcher. "There is a guy that was here in Stone Hearth Pizza, and now he is in CVS. He left everything here. And we think he has a gun!"

Seconds later, the woman screams into the telephone. "Run! Run! Run!"

Heavily armed Needham police, searching for the killer of Robert Moore Sr., 78, quickly surrounded the pizza shop, where the man had apparently returned, and eventually took him into custody at gunpoint.

But no gun was found, and he was not the suspect being sought in the killing.

The man was human rights activist Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an arm of the American Jewish Committee.

Kenneth Bandler, spokesman at the national headquarters of the American Jewish Committee in New York, said on Saturday that Neuer is an internationally recognized human rights advocate, who was visiting the United States at the invitation of Yale University and had traveled to Needham for meetings with local supporters.

A charge of disorderly conduct against Neuer, 37, was dismissed yesterday. Dedham District Court Clerk-Magistrate Salvatore Paterna said there was insufficient evidence to charge him.

"Mr. Neuer was an innocent man who went to a restaurant in Needham, who was traumatized and almost killed as a result," his lawyer, David G. Eisenstadt, said yesterday. "His impeccable reputation, internationally, has been unfairly tarnished by these events."

Eisenstadt said Neuer twice called 911 while in the restaurant.

Needham Police Chief Thomas J. Leary said last night that his dispatchers were overwhelmed by calls from anxious citizens after the town notified residents by reverse 911 calls that the schools were locked down and a killer was loose.

The chief confirmed Neuer had called twice - once his call was dropped because of call volume - and that on the second try, Neuer got through. A dispatcher spoke with him.

"They were able to communicate with him and understood he wanted to exit the building, so they helped him do that," the chief said. Neuer emerged with his hands up.

Leary defended his department's approach to Neuer. Police also released recordings of three 911 calls they received about Neuer and his behavior inside the restaurant on Great Plain Avenue.

"While it is regrettable that the event at Needham Center may have caused Mr. Neuer, and many other citizens, a great deal of distress," police said in a statement, "both the incident involving Mr. Neuer and the tragedy involving the Moore family were responded to with proper care and consideration for the public safety."

Also yesterday, William B. Dunn, 41, was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty to first degree murder in Dedham District Court in the beating death of Moore inside the victim's home Friday morning.

Dunn was working for a Quincy lawn irrigation company when he attacked Moore with a baseball bat, Norfolk Assistant District Attorney Michele Armour said in court.

Dunn attacked Moore's daughter-in-law, Nancy Moore, with the bat when she came into the basement while Dunn was trying to clean up the scene, she said.

Nancy Moore suffered head injuries, but was well enough yesterday to talk over the speakerphone from Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to her colleagues at the Needham real estate office where she works.

"She is doing as well as can be expected," said Jill Finkelstein of Prudential Prime Properties Advantage in Needham. "Everything seems to be going in the right direction."

No members of Moore's extended family or Dunn's family were in the courtroom, according to lawyers in the case.

Armour said in court that detectives had not interviewed Nancy Moore, and she asked for court files to be impounded until that is done, a request Judge Patricia G. Curtin approved.

Dunn's lawyer, Robert Griffin, said outside the courthouse that he has not decided whether to use an insanity defense.

Dunn was voluntarily committed to a Norwood hospital in August after making paranoid statements to his wife, according to a Norwood police report.

"He has no prior history of violent behavior in his life . . . as far as I know," Griffin said.

The slaying took place sometime before 12:49 p.m., and as police searched for the killer, Neuer walked into the Stone Hearth Pizza shop, where a manager had learned of the killing and ensuing hunt.

In her 911 call, manager Marina Paranagua said the man was "acting very weird" and that she and other employees did not feel comfortable.

She reported the man had changed his clothes in the bathroom and was not eating the food he had ordered. The second caller and others at the scene told police the man was armed.

About the same time police took Neuer into custody, Dunn was captured about 2 miles away near Route 128, officials have said.

Jonathan Schwartz, co-owner of the pizza shop, defended Paranagua's decision to call police.

"If you think there might be a killer at large, why wouldn't you pick up the phone if someone is acting very strangely?" he said.

"I don't think you mess around given those circumstances that were there that day."

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.

(Correction: Because of an editing error, a display quotation that accompanied late editions of a story on the Needham homicide in yesterday's City & Region section incorrectly identified attorney Robert Griffin as attorney David G. Eisenstadt.)

Pop-up AUDIO CLIP: 911 calls from Needham

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