SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 31, 2013

Suspect: Cop's injuries a 'mystery'

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — The Level 3 sex offender charged with stabbing a Danvers patrolman in what prosecutors called an “ambush” in 2011 yesterday claimed to a judge that it’s a “mystery” how the officer got his potentially fatal wounds to his neck and arms.

Roy Limbaugh, 59, is representing himself on charges that include attempted murder, multiple assault and battery counts, and failing to register as a sex offender, after firing a series of court-appointed attorneys.

Yesterday, he argued a motion to dismiss the charges against him, claiming that the grand jury that indicted him did so on insufficient evidence. That motion was quickly denied by Salem Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead.

But during his argument, Limbaugh insisted that he was the victim of a “savage” beating by John Melto on the morning of Aug. 19, 2011, and never stabbed or slashed the veteran patrolman.

Limbaugh told the judge that when he demanded to know whether Melto was the officer who had been knocking on his door that morning, Melto went on the attack.

Limbaugh claimed that Melto repeatedly struck him with a baton (or “billy club” as Limbaugh called it) in the head and torso, nearly broke his thumb in the car door, and pepper-sprayed him. He claimed that Melto cut his hand on the side mirror of the Volkswagen.

So how did he end up covered in Melto’s blood, one might ask.

“I grab his billy club, now his hand is cut,” Limbaugh told the judge. “That’s how I got his blood on me.”

Limbaugh claimed the officer did not have any wounds to his throat or arms when he drove away.

“It’s a mystery,” Limbaugh insisted. “I don’t know what took place after I left.”

Limbaugh was arrested after another driver on Route 24 on the South Shore looked over at his car and saw him covered in blood.

Limbaugh’s argument for dismissal appeared to center mostly on his claim that police had no justification to attempt to arrest him on two motor vehicle warrants or for failing to register as a sex offender.

He claimed that Danvers Detective Timothy Williamson (whom he repeatedly misidentified as “Wilmington”) had purposely impounded (or as Limbaugh put it, “stole”) his unregistered truck in order to “entice” him to show up at the police station. He also claimed, erroneously, that police were required to have not only printed copies of the warrants but also officers from the towns where those warrants were issued when they showed up at his trailer, which was parked in a driveway on Popes Lane.

But Whitehead pointed out to Limbaugh that not only was he wrong about the requirements of a warrant arrest, those details are irrelevant to the charges he was seeking to dismiss yesterday.

Prosecutor Gerald Shea said little during the hearing, arguing that a review of the grand jury transcript reveals ample evidence on which to indict Limbaugh.

As for Limbaugh’s claims of being attacked, Shea argued that it was the other way around.

Melto “was ambushed by Mr. Limbaugh, who was in an enraged state because of the police towing his truck,” Shea said. “Looking at the injuries (Melto) received, (Limbaugh’s) story is not credible at all.”

During the hearing, Melto and his wife sat just a few feet behind Limbaugh. It was the first time that Limbaugh has appeared in court without remaining inside a holding area of the courtroom. Instead, he was seated at a defense table next to a lawyer appointed as “standby” counsel.

After Whitehead denied his motion, Limbaugh told him he plans to appeal that ruling, a legal long shot, since the Appeals Court relatively rarely takes up appeals before a trial. Limbaugh’s trial is scheduled for April 29.

Limbaugh, who is being held on $1 million bail, made one final request of the judge yesterday, that he be released on his own recognizance so that he can prepare for trial.

“I was the judge who set bail in the case, and I would not be inclined to reduce it,” Whitehead responded.

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