BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A judge yesterday took the rare step of setting bail at nearly five times the amount requested by prosecutors for a Salem man who allegedly broke into a woman’s home in the middle of the night last Friday.
“It’s unusual that I do this, but I’m going in the other direction,” Salem District Court Judge Robert Brennan said as he set Eric Barbeau’s bail at $2,500 cash. “Someone with a drug problem going into someone’s home at night is a pretty serious incident.”
Barbeau, 28, of 19 Beacon St., Salem, pleaded not guilty to charges of breaking and entering in the nighttime and larceny, after police say he repeatedly went into a Conners Road home shortly before 3 a.m. Friday.
A 56-year-old woman who heard loud noises from her living room confronted him, and he fled into the darkness, Lt. Conrad Prosniewski said.
The woman’s Bose stereo, an iPod, a watch, a designer jacket and an ottoman were all missing, she told police.
Patrolman Tim Salvo and his police dog, Turbo, followed a scent trail to a nearby street, then lost the scent.
The woman said her intruder was a small man, about 5 feet 4 inches, and Salem detectives suspected Barbeau, who lives near the spot where Turbo lost the scent.
It’s the first “collar” for one of the city’s new police dogs, which arrived last year after a fundraising campaign raised enough money for the Police Department to acquire three K-9 officers and train human officers to handle them.
On Monday, Salem police Detective Sgt. Kristian Hanson went to Barbeau’s home, where he spoke to Barbeau’s father and then to Barbeau, Prosniewski told the judge.
Barbeau initially said he’d purchased two items, the iPod and the ottoman, “on the street.” But Prosniewski said Hanson thought it “highly unlikely” that Barbeau bought a piece of furniture on the street and pressed the suspect, who eventually confessed to taking the missing items. He told the detective he made several trips in and out of the house that night before the woman woke up and confronted him, Prosniewski said.
He also admitted to taking a GPS from a car; police found two of them in his home and are now investigating to find the owners, Prosniewski said.
Defense lawyer Heidi Shore urged the judge to set a low bail for Barbeau, a father of two children, pointing out that he was “cooperative” with the police once confronted.
But the judge also noted that Barbeau has a history of missed court appearances in the past, and that he is already facing charges of second-offense drunken driving and leaving the scene of a crash from September.
Barbeau was not expected to immediately come up with the $2,500 bail.
He’s due back in court Feb. 25.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.