Northampton man pleads not guilty in stabbing death of woman on Sunday night


Staff Writer

Published: 07-11-2022 9:24 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A 24-year-old city man was ordered held without the right to bail at his arraignment Monday on charges that he killed his roommate and stole her car because he was about to become homeless.

Devin R. Bryden appeared in Northampton District Court and denied stabbing Jana M. Abromowitz, 21, to death in an apartment at 11 Hatfield St., a supportive housing unit run by DIAL/SELF Youth & Community Services.

According to the Northwestern district attorney’s office, police were called to the apartment at around 6 p.m. Sunday and found Abromowitz dead in the kitchen.

Investigators learned that the victim’s car was stolen, there were security cameras outdoors and Bryden had called the property manager twice shortly after the slaying on a recorded phone line. Police determined that the car was in the parking lot of the Applebee’s on Route 20 in Westfield and arrested Bryden after finding him in the driver’s seat.

Bryden wore a green jumpsuit and did not speak during his brief court appearance before Judge Jacklyn Connly. His attorney, public defender Jonah Goldsmith, waived the formal reading of the charges — murder and larceny of a motor vehicle — and said Bryden pleaded not guilty. He is due back in court Aug. 10, at which time his bail denial could be reviewed.

According to a police report included in court records, a friend discovered Abromowitz’s body in a pool of blood in front of the refrigerator and called the police. Responding officers found she had stab wounds to her face and head and signs of blunt force trauma.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. The friend who found her inadvertently left footprints in the blood and he turned over his shoes to police as evidence.

After his arrest, according to investigators, Bryden gave police details of the crime.

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“Bryden told investigators that he had been planning on killing the victim in order to steal her vehicle as he knew he was going to be homeless soon,” a police report reads. Bryden allegedly said that, before going to Westfield, “he took the knife to a friend’s house in Whately where he disposed of the knife and his sweatshirt.”

‘Absolutely heartbroken’

DIAL/SELF is a support program for at-risk young people ages 18-24. According to its website, the nonprofit works to “help young people increase their personal and community strengths and develop autonomy by connecting them with housing, income, education and civic opportunities.”

In a statement, DIAL/SELF executive director Phillip Ringwood said the organization is “absolutely heartbroken” and is working with Northampton police during the investigation.

“DIAL/SELF program staff are reaching out to other young people at that property to make sure they have access to counseling and crisis services and supports in processing the trauma of this event,” Ringwood said. “Until the investigation into the death proceeds further, DIAL/SELF does not plan to make any additional comments on the details of this tragic loss of life.”

Ringwood’s statement concluded that the organization does not want its clients to be “forced to relive details of (the case) in their news feeds while they are still trying to heal and process their experiences.”

The first homicide in Hampshire County this year, the stabbing remains under investigation by the Northampton Police Department and the state police detective unit assigned to the district attorney’s office. Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber handled the arraignment.

‘She was living the American dream’

Joseph Lubold of Holyoke, a close friend who affectionately referred to Abromowitz as his “stepdaughter,” spoke to reporters outside the courtroom. He said Abromowitz was adopted from Bulgaria at age 14.

“This little girl worked every day during the pandemic and became the manager” of the Burger King restaurant on King Street, Lubold said. “She was living the American dream. … She was smart enough to get farther.”

He said they met in 2019 while attending programs at The Literacy Project and quickly bonded. Abromowitz went on vacations with him and his sons, he said, and they planned to take a trip to her native Bulgaria someday.

Rick Patenaude and Margaret Perry, a married couple who live near 11 Hatfield St., said the police activity lasted nearly 12 hours, until about 6 a.m. on Monday. They said police are called to the site a few times a year, but there were no serious problems or disturbances there before the killing.

Perry said the couple did not hear anything while the crime was being committed, but based on the law enforcement response and the presence of people who appeared to be grieving, “we assumed” that someone had been killed, and the couple kept their distance.

“It’s kind of shocking that it happened here,” Patenaude said, standing in his driveway on Monday afternoon. “It really is a quiet neighborhood. … You don’t expect this to happen here.”

Victim beloved at North Star

Jodi Lyn Cutler, outreach director at North Star in Sunderland, said Abromowitz attended the program, an alternative to school for teenagers, from 2015-20.

“In her years at North Star she went from being a shy 14-year-old who spoke almost no English and spent her days upstairs, to knowing everyone, singing lead vocals and playing guitar in the North Star Band, and being a community leader,” North Star said in a statement. “We were immensely proud of her successes, and we are grieving and reeling from this shock.”

Abromowitz attended the program’s 26th anniversary party on June 11, Cutler said.

“Of course, she was her usual smiling self, and she brought ice cream to the party,” Cutler said. “She really was a bright light in this world, even when things were not easy, and they were never easy.”

Loran Saito, North Star’s program director, said Abromowitz became friends with her children and forged uncommonly strong bonds with the staff.

“I want the world to know that she was loved by many, many people,” Saito said. “Having had some struggles as a young child, she was really sensitive to people in need and always looking out for people who are vulnerable.”

When Abromowitz visited North Star last month, she said, “It was great to see her beautiful smile. It felt like a party because she showed up.”

Brian Steele can be reached at]]>