SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 31, 2013

Couple charged in 7-Eleven fracas

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — The parents of a 1-month-old infant have been charged with attacking two 7-Eleven employees who suspected them of planning to shoplift from the store late Saturday night.

Michael Castaldo, 22, of Lynn, allegedly head-butted and punched a clerk at the 7-Eleven on Norman Street after the clerk followed him around the store, suspecting that Castaldo was trying to steal merchandise, Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told a judge during Castaldo’s arraignment yesterday.

Then, when a second employee tried to come to the aid of the first, Tia Jones, 27, of 116 Lafayette St., Salem, jumped into the fray, pulling the other employee away, according to a police report.

During the fracas, which occurred shortly after 11 p.m., police say, Jones and Castaldo threw items, including a $1,000 machine used in taking inventory in the store and a yellow “wet floor” sign, destroying both, before fleeing in a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero.

Police say they took a DVD of the made-for-television movie “Reality of Love” from the package.

One of the employees got the license plate number of the vehicle, and police identified the owner as a Lynn woman. Lynn police were familiar with the vehicle from past incidents and sent Salem police a photo of Castaldo, who had frequently used the car.

Castaldo was arrested about an hour later on Lafayette Street. He is charged with unarmed robbery, assault and battery, and two counts each of assault with a dangerous weapon and malicious destruction.

Patrick O’Malley, an attorney for Castaldo, said his client told him that he acted in self-defense after the clerk pushed his client. “Mr. Castaldo was only defending himself,” O’Malley said.

He asked the judge to release Castaldo, saying that he helps support his 1-month-old son with a job at Big Lots.

Shortly after his bail hearing, where Judge Matthew Machera set bail at $25,000 ($15,000 more than Prosniewski, the department’s police prosecutor, was seeking), Jones, wanted on a warrant for similar charges, was discovered sitting in the courtroom with their infant son.

She was taken into custody at the courthouse. The infant was turned over to a family member.

An attorney for Jones said she was trying to break up the confrontation and was actually trying to pull her boyfriend away.

Machera set bail for Jones at $5,000.

Both are due back in court next month for a probable cause hearing.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.