BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A Salem man’s apparent attempt at becoming a safe-cracker didn’t work out very well, police say.
Three Salem police detectives happened to be parked near the intersection of Dow and Lafayette streets shortly after 5 p.m. Monday when they noticed a familiar face, that of Peter Turco, 35. The detectives — Dennis Gaudet, Sgt. Kristian Hanson and Brian St. Pierre — had all dealt with Turco before.
This time, they noticed he was carrying a brown comforter that appeared to be wrapped around a large, square object as he walked in the rain up Dow Street.
Then, as they watched, a safe fell to the ground from under the blanket.
Within moments, a woman driving a Ford Explorer pulled up, driving the wrong way on Dow Street. Turco picked up the safe and hopped in, the detectives said in their report. Because the SUV was going the wrong way, they decided to stop it.
In the SUV, they noticed the safe on the floor at Turco’s feet.
Turco claimed he’d found the safe and the comforter in the trash. But since both were dry, and it was raining out, “this reply did not seem reasonable,” the detectives wrote.
Meanwhile, back at the police station, a dispatcher was handling a call from a houseguest at 31 Salem St. who said Turco had just left the apartment with a safe, other valuables and a North Face backpack — which the officers had also noticed Turco carrying.
And they couldn’t help but notice that Turco’s pockets were bulging. During booking, Gaudet discovered that they were filled with jewelry, watches and two cellphones.
The houseguest, who is acquainted with Turco, said he had been staying with a friend in the apartment. That friend had gone out when Turco showed up and asked to use the bathroom, he said. Because the resident knew that Turco knew his host, he let him in.
A few minutes later, Turco came back to the sofa carrying the safe and other items, the houseguest said. At this point, the guest said he realized something wasn’t right. He asked Turco what he was doing, police said, and Turco allegedly told the man that everything was fine and that his friend knew he was taking those things.
But when the man asked him to wait a moment so he could check, Turco’s tone changed, the man told police. “Easy way or hard way,” the man quoted Turco as saying.
Later, the resident and his girlfriend showed up at the police station to identify their items, which also included a PlayStation 3 game system. Inside the safe were a camera and $205 in cash, along with some digital scales and plastic baggies and the owner’s birth certificate.
Turco pleaded not guilty to charges of larceny and witness intimidation during his arraignment in Salem District Court, where Judge Sabita Singh set bail at $25,000 cash. Turco is not expected to come up with that kind of money and is being held at Middleton Jail.
He’s due back in court next month.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.