By Alan Burke
---- — BEVERLY — A series of extraordinary coincidences sent Beverly and state police on a chase Saturday for two Plaistow, N.H., fugitives accused in a horrific case of child abuse.
By the time officers realized they were on the wrong trail, they’d encountered two people with outstanding warrants, including one who broke into a building and resisted arrest while trying to elude police. The fleeing pair from New Hampshire were not located, and there’s no evidence they ever were in Beverly.
The incident was sparked by a tip from a Salem resident that fugitives Roland Dow, 27, and Jessica Linscott, 23, were staying at a house on Dunham Road in Beverly. The pair are suspected in the first-degree assault that sent Linscott’s 3-year-old son, James, to Exeter Hospital with burns and severe head injuries, according to The Associated Press.
Arrested early this morning in Beverly was Roland Lemieux, 31, of Middleton on charges including breaking and entering in the night to commit a crime, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest. Police believe he was trying to flee due to an outstanding warrant.
Officers went to the Dunham Road address on Saturday evening, according to Chief Mark Ray, seeking Dow. “We had a caller who said they knew the people at that house. ... They told us these are the people police are looking for.”
The coincidence of both Lemieux and Dow having the same first name further piqued the interest of police. They offered a photo to the landlord, Edward Cloutman, 71, a man discovered to have an outstanding warrant for motor vehicle violations himself. Prior to his arrest, Cloutman positively identified Lemieux and a woman staying with him as Dow and Linscott.
Police considered this strong evidence that they were near the fugitives, Ray said.
The pair had been guests of a woman living with him, the landlord said. They could not be located during a search of the house, but police began to scour the area.
Later, the woman living with Cloutman arrived, and she told officers she’d dropped off a man and a woman in the vicinity of Brimbal Hills Drive.
“They didn’t want to have contact with police,” Ray said. “That raised our suspicions even more.”
The search was broadened. It included more than a half-dozen Beverly officers and the state police fugitive apprehension unit, including dogs. Lemieux was found hiding in a shed on Kinsman Street, according to a police press release.
His capture and arrest, however, revealed conclusively that he was not Dow. Police believe the reason he fled was because of the active warrant for disturbing the peace and resisting arrest.
Lemieux’s female companion was not discovered, according to the chief, but police know her name and identified her as a Peabody resident.
The search created a commotion in the area. Police reported plenty of noise, lights and activity, including the arrival of television trucks. Jay and Barbara Salerno on Dunham Road noticed a marked increase in the number of cars and cruisers going up and down the street late Saturday.
“A neighbor said there was a helicopter,” Barbara Salerno said.
“The cops were here,” Jay Salerno said, pointing outside his front door, “parked in that spot.” Shortly before midnight, they knocked on the door, but he had to tell them, “I didn’t see anything.”
At Susan Wallace’s house a few doors down, a man with a camera, apparently a TV newsman, was seen.
“You could hear the dogs,” she said. But it was mostly quiet. She pointed to the rest stop across Route 128, saying, “There was more excitement over there.” A report of a suspicious package had drawn law enforcement there around the same time.
Given the mounting coincidences, Ray offered no criticism of his officers for pursuing the matter vigorously. The Salem tip followed multiple reports that Dow and Linscott had been seen here on the North Shore.
“We act on the best information we have at the time,” he said. “Our officers did a good job. They had information which would lead someone to believe these two individuals (Dow and Linscott) were in the city.”
The nature of the New Hampshire crime may have sharpened the attention of the police.
“A lot of my officers are parents and have children,” Ray said. “I’m sure they are horrified (by Dow and Linscott) like the rest of us.”