As prosecutors plan to brief the press on the case of an Easthampton woman who went missing seven weeks ago, several friends and a family member of Joanne “Jo” Ringer told the Gazette that Ringer suffered violent abuse at the hands of her now-dead husband.
Ringer has been missing since March 2, when she failed to show up for her first day of work as a taxi driver in Easthampton, where authorities found her car abandoned on March 6. Authorities discovered her husband, Chad Reidy, dead inside his garage in Clarksburg on April 7, an apparent suicide.
After weeks of remaining silent at the request of investigators, Ringer’s daughter and close friends decided to speak out.
“It’s hard to sit there and not be able to tell people, ‘Yeah, Chad was abusive,’” Ringer’s daughter, Savanah, said in an interview.
More information about the case may emerge Friday, when Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless plans to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. in North Adams. An announcement of the press conference provided few details, saying simply that it “will concern the investigation” into Ringer’s disappearance.
In another development Thursday, a woman Reidy was with before Ringer, Laura Reilly, was arrested and charged with three counts of obstruction of justice. She was being held at the Berkshire County House of Correction pending arraignment Friday, according to Sgt. James Jamari at the State Police barracks in Cheshire.
A spokesman for the Berkshire district attorney’s office declined Thursday to confirm or deny any of the details in this story. The Gazette reached a member of Reidy’s family on Wednesday, who also declined to comment.
However, four of Ringer’s close friends and her daughter have now gone on the record with the Gazette about what they say is evidence of Reidy’s physical abuse of Ringer, details of which they said they provided investigators immediately following her disappearance.
One of those friends, 44-year-old Erik Brown of Easthampton, said that late at night on Dec. 23, Ringer called him in a state of panic.
“She was crying that she didn’t want to die,” Brown told the Gazette. “I told her to come right down.”
When Ringer arrived with her two beloved English mastiffs at Brown’s home in Easthampton, Brown said, she was bruised and swollen. She said Reidy had punched her, choked her until she passed out and pointed a gun at her head, according to Brown.
Brown said Ringer stayed with him until Christmas Day. Before she left, he said, she offered a grim prediction.
“If anything happens to me, Chad did it,” Brown said Ringer told him. ‘I’m trying to get out’
Brown’s story was echoed by another of Ringer’s close friends, 33-year-old Shauna Visneau, who told the Gazette she was on the phone with Ringer before and after that abuse allegedly took place.
Ringer called Visneau on Dec. 23 and told her to stay on the line just in case something happened.
“‘Shauna, I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know what I’m going to find when I get home,’” Visneau quoted Ringer as saying.
Visneau stayed on the line as Ringer searched for Reidy, whom she eventually found locked in the garage with his car running, according to Visneau.
Visneau listened as she said Ringer broke a window to get into the garage and get Reidy out of the vehicle. As the two entered the house and began to argue, Visneau said the phone call was disconnected.
When Ringer called back not long after, she said she was scared and wanted Visneau to stay on the phone while she gathered her things and fled the house.
“That’s when she told me he had choked her and tried to shoot her, and that he could make her disappear,” Visneau said.
Visneau said the alarm in Ringer’s voice was nothing new.
Visneau met Ringer in the fall of 2015, when Ringer began living in her camper on the property next to Visneau’s home in Pelham. They quickly became close, Visneau said, and she watched as Ringer began dating Reidy before he moved into the camper with her in the spring.
“When they first started, she was just head over heels,” Visneau said. “She would tell me, ‘This is my forever guy.’”
Things changed, however, when the two moved away to Clarksburg, Visneau said.
Just after 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2016, Ringer sent Visneau a troubling Facebook message.
“I’m not safe. I’m trying to get out,” Ringer said in the message, a screenshot of which the Gazette obtained from Visneau.
“So I’m begging you till I figure things out to take care of my babies,” the message continued, referring to her ducks and chickens. “He went in there with a knife to kill them. I filmed him so he got mad and left and I saved them for the day.”
Visneau said she counseled Ringer to leave Reidy, but to no avail.
“She wouldn’t leave, she kept saying that she wouldn’t, not yet,” Visneau said. “She didn’t leave, she couldn’t.”
Another friend, 42-year-old Teigh Brown of Chicopee, said he has known Ringer for 25 years. He said that he, too, had received cries for help.
“She would call me up late at night or early in the morning, and she would either be crying or in a rage,” he said. “She would tell me about how he liked to choke her.”
Like others interviewed for this story, Teigh said he asked Ringer about why she stayed with Reidy.
“I offered to go up there and deal with him,” he said. “She would just say, ‘I can handle it.’”
Frustrated with instructions from law enforcement officials not to speak with the press, Ringer’s daughter Savanah and close friend Ginger Plantier also shared information with the Gazette that they said they have provided to investigators.
Plantier and Savanah said that they are not pointing fingers or assigning blame for Ringer’s disappearance; they just want people to know what they’ve known all along, information they hope will help bring Ringer home.
“Her close friends and family have lived with the anguish of knowing these details for six-plus weeks,” Plantier told the Gazette. “Now that it’s released, please make sure those six weeks weren’t in vain.”
Savanah told the Gazette that she has access to her mother’s Facebook account — often Ringer’s only method of communication, given that her cellphone had been disconnected — and that she saw messages in which Ringer angrily discussed the alleged household violence with Reidy.
“I don’t want to be your punching bag,” Ringer told Reidy in one message, dated Jan. 23, that Savanah showed the Gazette. “You’re the one who caused me to bleed oh and starve for air.”
Savanah also said Ringer and Reidy were again in a Facebook argument on March 1, the day before Ringer went missing.
Plantier and Savanah also shared what they said are details about the investigation into Ringer’s disappearance, which authorities have to this point kept under wraps.
Police discovered Ringer’s 2001 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan on March 6, the two women said, on the corner of Exeter Street and Parson Street in Easthampton.
The two also said police searched Mill Pond with a boat and helicopter on March 6, and last Wednesday conducted a search at Millside Park, looking up and down the Manhan Rail Trail. As late as April 13, they said, police searched that same area in a helicopter.
In his interview with the Gazette before he died, Reidy said the last time he saw Ringer was the morning of her disappearance, when she got a phone call and left the house to visit someone. He said he was visiting friends that morning in Worthington, and when he returned to the house that afternoon, he said, Ringer was already gone.
Ringer’s daughter and Plantier both expressed skepticism about Reidy’s account.
Erik Brown, Ringer’s close friend, said Ringer stopped by his workplace on March 1, the day before she went missing. She borrowed money for cigarettes, and said she wanted to borrow his GPS before starting work, Brown said.
Ringer then left, Brown recounted, saying that she had to pick up Reidy from a doctor’s appointment.
Normally, when she told Brown goodbye, he said she would hug him, kiss him on the cheek and say “I love you” in a goofy voice. But that day, she said it with a seriousness that still surprises him when thinking back on it.
Ringer never showed up to borrow the GPS the next day, he said.
Dusty Christensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.