PITTSFIELD -- A 23-year-old man has pleaded innocent in the alleged beating death of a Pittsfield man who has been missing since February.
Damien James Lamb is accused of killing Brandon LaBonte, 21, over a debt of no more than $150, the Berkshire Eagle reported. LaBonte's body has not been found.
At Lamb's arraignment Friday, Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless said Lamb lured LaBonte to a Becket residence, ''where he then murdered him by strangling him with rope, beating him with a shovel, and then stomping on him."
Prosecutors said that Lamb left Massachusetts after police questioned him about LaBonte and that he settled in Davenport, Iowa. Police arrested Lamb Wednesday after he returned to Westfield for his father's wake.
On Friday, Pittsfield District Court Judge Alfred Barbalunga ordered Lamb held without bail.
Lamb's court-appointed lawyer, William Rota, said his client ''is adamant that he is innocent in this matter and looks forward to being exonerated."
According to court papers, Lamb was implicated in the slaying by a man who told police he drove Lamb and LaBonte to the Becket residence on Feb. 16. Shortly afterward, Lamb brought the man to LaBonte's lifeless body. The witness told police that Lamb then continued to beat LaBonte.
On Friday, Capeless said investigators planned to search a ''remote location" for LaBonte's body, though he declined to say where. Court documents said the body may have been buried in the town of Peru, about 10 miles east of the New York border and two towns north of Becket.
Lamb first beat a handcuffed LaBonte in a wooded area on Feb. 6, according to police reports. The beating, which lasted up to 2 1/2 hours, was a compromise after Lamb threatened to cut off LaBonte's finger to settle the debt, police reports said.
Prosecutors said Lamb killed LaBonte during the second beating on Feb. 16. LaBonte's mother reported him missing nine days later.