, Salem, MA

July 13, 2013

Cough syrup addiction sends Peabody man back to prison


---- — PEABODY — A Peabody man’s seemingly unconquerable addiction to cough medicine has landed him back in state prison — at least his fourth trip there in the past two decades.

Stephen Sharry, 56, of 2 Hoover Ave., pleaded guilty yesterday to last October’s holdup of the pharmacy counter inside the Hannaford’s Supermarket in Peabody, and was sentenced to six to 10 years in state prison.

The incident left a pharmacy clerk terrified and shaking so hard she was having trouble breathing, prosecutor James Gubitose told a Salem Superior Court judge during the hearing yesterday.

On the evening of Oct. 21, 2012, Sharry went into the supermarket and approached the clerk, telling her he had a .45-caliber gun, Gubitose told Judge John Lu.

He demanded that she give him the prescription drugs Adderall, a stimulant used most commonly to treat attention deficit disorder, and Tussionex, a cough medication that contains hydrocodone.

The clerk complied, handing over bottles of the two drugs to Sharry, who then demanded that she come out from behind the counter and lie on the floor for five minutes while he fled.

Police identified Sharry through surveillance footage as he left the area, Gubitose told the judge.

Confronted at his home, Sharry claimed that he had been ordered by a person he did not know to go into the store and rob it, then return with the Adderall pills, which, he claimed, he had handed over to the mysterious mastermind.

Police weren’t buying it, however, and conducted a search, turning up a jacket with a torn lining that turned out to be filled with the pills, Gubitose told the judge.

Both Gubitose and defense lawyer Christopher Norris said the plea agreement was the result of extensive negotiations over the past few months, which ultimately led to the prosecution dropping a habitual criminal charge in exchange for Sharry’s guilty plea to unarmed robbery.

The habitual offender charge stemmed from Sharry’s lengthy record.

In 2007 he held up CVS in Peabody, using a tube of toothpaste in his pocket to pretend he had a 9 mm handgun and demanding cough medicine with hydrocodone. He received a four-year prison term, which he completed last year.

In 1998, Sharry was sentenced to three to five years in state prison for breaking into the Rowley Pharmacy. Police, alerted by an alarm, caught him climbing through the smashed front window of the store, carrying two bottles of cough syrup and a hammer.

When he was arrested in Rowley, Sharry had just been paroled from an 18-month to two-year prison term for three pharmacy holdups and attempted holdups, including one at Conley’s Drug in Ipswich in 1995 in which he pretended that the screwdriver in his pocket was a gun, and two others in North Andover and Lynnfield.

The judge said he found the recommended prison sentence reasonable, given Sharry’s prior record.

Norris said his client has a history of depression.

His parents, who are in their 80s, were present for yesterday’s proceeding.

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