SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 29, 2012

Suspect in Salem burglary remains held

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A Salem man with a 16-page criminal record filled with theft and fraud charges could be facing state prison time following his indictment in a bizarre burglary last summer.

Prosecutors weren’t planning to seek an indictment against Christopher Fletcher Gray for the burglary back in August, but on the day the case was set to go to trial in Salem District Court, a judge there took a look at the case and Gray’s long record and declined jurisdiction.

That move, relatively rare, forced prosecutors to present the case to a grand jury, which returned an indictment last month charging Gray with unarmed burglary.

Gray, 35, borrowed a ladder from one neighbor and a butter knife from another to break into an apartment in the same building where he was living, at 31 Salem St., back in August, prosecutors and police say.

Once inside, police said he stole a 48-inch flat screen television, a laptop and a video game console.

Gray had been released from Middleton Jail just a few weeks earlier after serving a year in another case, in which he went door-to-door in Salem, accompanied by his girlfriend and their baby, soliciting donations for the North Shore Cancer Walk. He later admitted he kept all the money for himself.

During a hearing yesterday in Salem Superior Court, where the case is now pending, prosecutor Jessica Strasnick argued for an increase in Gray’s bail from $10,000 to $25,000, arguing that the facts of the case, the potential higher penalty he’s now facing, and Gray’s record increase the likelihood that he might flee.

Defense lawyer William Barabino, meanwhile, urged Judge David Lowy to reduce the bail, saying Gray wants to try to regain custody of his youngest child, now 20 months old and the subject of a pending care and protection case in the Juvenile Court. Gray also has two older children, 10 and 16.

Barabino called the new case a misunderstanding, saying Gray had previously worked as the manager at the apartment building, and was approached by a neighbor who told him his girlfriend had locked him out and he needed to get his belongings.

But Lowy, while denying the request for increased bail, also opted not to reduce it, citing Gray’s history of defaults in prior court cases as well as three prior restraining orders taken out by three different women.

Gray, who remains held at Middleton Jail, is due back in court Jan. 24, where Barabino will argue for dismissal of the charges.

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