, Salem, MA

March 20, 2014

Ex-firefighter jailed on charges of domestic abuse


---- — SALEM — A former Salem firefighter will remain in custody at Middleton Jail through the weekend, facing charges that he repeatedly assaulted his wife as their marriage deteriorated over the past two years.

John O’Leary, 45, of 10 Wyman Drive, Salem, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment yesterday in Salem District Court to charges of kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon, two counts of domestic assault and battery, and witness intimidation.

Prosecutors asked that O’Leary be deemed a danger to his estranged wife and held without bail until trial. A hearing on that request is set for Monday.

The allegations came to light this week after O’Leary’s wife went to police on Sunday to obtain an emergency domestic restraining order against her husband, telling police that she believed he was going to harm her. She later told a domestic violence officer that she is “very concerned because John is over the edge and has nothing to lose.”

The problems in their marriage started after O’Leary lost his job as a Salem fire lieutenant in 2012 over allegations of misuse of funds from a firefighters union charity account. That firing was later upheld by the state’s Civil Service Commission. O’Leary was not charged criminally in that investigation. He has appealed the Civil Service ruling, but there has been no activity in that case since it was filed in January.

His wife told police that she believed O’Leary was jealous and began to suspect infidelity, tracking her whereabouts with the GPS feature on her cellphone and, she believes, hiring someone to follow her.

Police have been called to the couple’s home five times since 2012. In each of those instances, both O’Leary and his wife told responding officers that they were simply having a verbal argument.

On Tuesday, however, she told the department’s domestic violence officer, Patrolman Kathleen Rocheville, that there had been incidents of physical abuse since July 2012, when O’Leary punched her in the face, splitting her lip, she said.

In another incident, in November 2012, she said O’Leary took his gun from a gun safe, aimed it at her head and then loaded a clip into it, threatening, “Do you want me to use this?”

Someone in the home had called 911 that evening, according to a police report, and officers heard a loud argument in the background, but both told police that they were just having a loud argument and that both of their guns were locked in a gun safe.

In October 2013, police went to the couple’s home and confiscated O’Leary’s gun, following a report of a domestic dispute. Both told police that they had been drinking and had a verbal argument, according to a police report.

The following month, on Nov. 10, police went to what the couple described at the time as an “accidental” 911 call by one of their children. They denied any physical assaults. Two weeks later, officers again responded to a 911 call, apparently dialed by the couple’s 11-year-old son.

The boy told police, however, that he’d just been “nervous” and that his parents hadn’t had a physical fight, just an argument.

On New Year’s Day, the couple again got into an argument, O’Leary’s wife told police this week.

In that incident, O’Leary chased her and tackled her as she tried to flee into a bathroom, sending her head into a door jamb and causing a severe wound, she said. She told police she did not immediately seek medical attention, waiting until the following day. She told family members she had fallen and then went to Beverly Hospital because she did not want anyone she knew in Salem to find out about what had happened, she told Rocheville.

She missed 21/2 weeks of work as a result of the injuries, according to Rocheville’s report.

O’Leary left the couple’s home and stayed with his sister, but he returned on Saturday, she said. Over the weekend, he made threats and called her names and told her he was going to get her fired, she said. That’s when she went to police.

Detectives obtained a warrant for O’Leary’s arrest, and at 7:45 p.m., Salem police Capt. Tom Griffin, Lt. Steve Bona and Patrolman Eric Gagnon made the arrest at Salem Fitness on Swampscott Road

William O’Hare, a lawyer who was representing O’Leary yesterday, did not comment on the allegations, instead agreeing to having O’Leary remain in custody until Monday’s hearing.

Sharon Saunders of Lynn, O’Leary’s sister, attended the hearing yesterday and outside court defended O’Leary, saying, “I know my brother. He didn’t do anything.”

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