BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — DANVERS — After days of being told by a judge he would have his chance to testify, Roy Limbaugh, the Danvers man representing himself on charges that he tried to kill a Danvers police officer, decided yesterday not to take the stand in his own defense.
Jurors did get to hear from him yesterday, however, through a video-recorded interrogation by Danvers police on the afternoon of Aug. 19, 2011, hours after the early morning confrontation between Limbaugh, 60, and veteran Danvers patrolman John Melto. That was played for jurors by prosecutor Gerald Shea, who then rested his case.
Melto was left with deep slash wounds to his neck, arms and hands that required surgery to repair.
Limbaugh, who last week insisted to jurors in his opening statement that Melto’s wounds were self-inflicted “scratches,” told police detectives who questioned him the day of the incident that he never stabbed the officer.
The detectives, Robert Sullivan and Timothy Williamson, were skeptical.
“So an officer who is 10 years younger, and bigger than you, attacks you and you’re miraculously unhurt, and he comes out bleeding from many, many cuts?” asked Williamson.
“If what you’re telling me is true, he must have done it to himself,” said Limbaugh, who was dressed in a Tyvek coverall police had given him to wear after taking his bloody clothes.
Limbaugh claimed he never saw Melto bleeding, only the blood that, he claimed, suddenly covered his hands and arms.
“I never seen no blood coming from his face or his chest,” Limbaugh said.
Limbaugh told the detectives he had already warned Melto, who had knocked on the door of his trailer early that morning, that if he returned, “I’m gonna open my door, I’m gonna go out there.”
Later, he told officers, he left his trailer, the type that can be towed behind a vehicle, and saw a cruiser.
“I seen the police cruiser just sitting there in the middle of the road,” Limbaugh told the officers. “So I made like a U turn ... so we could be side by side. I says, ‘Are you the police officer that came to my door and threatened me?’”
Police and prosecutors have characterized it as an “ambush” by Limbaugh.
But in Limbaugh’s version, he’s the victim.
Limbaugh said Melto got out of his cruiser and immediately reached for both his police baton and a canister of pepper spray, while somehow simultaneously pushing Limbaugh and scratching his own face.
Limbaugh ran his hand across his cheeks to demonstrate.
“I started pushing him away,” Limbaugh said. “All of a sudden I’m covered in blood.”
“I put my car in drive and took off,” Limbaugh said, telling the officers that the last thing he heard was Melto radioing for help.
So what about the neighbor who heard yelling between two men, the detectives asked.
“I wasn’t yelling at him, he wasn’t yelling at me,” Limbaugh said. “He just comes storming at me.”
How could Melto have attacked Limbaugh at the same time he was scratching his face, the officers asked.
“I find that very strange,” Limbaugh conceded. “Why would someone be attacking me and going like this?” he asked, as he rubbed his face.
“What did you use to cut him?” asked Sullivan. “Stop lying to us.”
Limbaugh again denied cutting Melto.
“You’re alleging you’re attacked for no reason,” Sullivan told him.
“The only reason I can assume is because he remembered what I said at my house,” said Limbaugh.
“You’re sitting here looking at me and you’re lying,” said Sullivan.
“No, why do you think I’ve been lying?” asked Limbaugh.
If he was the victim of an attack, why didn’t he call 911, the officers asked? Or stop at any of the numerous police stations or state police barracks he would likely have passed on his way to Stoughton, where he was working an under-the-table auto repair job he’d failed to report to police?
“Can’t I decide how I’m going to report him?” Limbaugh told the officers. Besides, he eventually conceded, he probably would have been arrested. “I’m going to walk into a police station with blood on me?” Limbaugh said.
“Normal people would report it,” suggested Williamson.
Closing arguments are scheduled for this morning.
But first, Judge Howard Whitehead will have to decide what instructions he will give to the jurors concerning one of the charges against Limbaugh, who besides attempted murder and assault, is charged with failing to register as a Level 3 sex offender.
Limbaugh is alleged to have told Danvers police he was self-employed, listing his work address as his trailer on Popes Lane. But police and prosecutors believe he was required to tell authorities that he was working at the Stoughton auto business.
Whitehead acknowledged during a hearing yesterday outside the jury’s presence that the statute concerning sex offender registration is somewhat vague, though he believes that someone working at one location is required to report where he is to police.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.