, Salem, MA

July 12, 2013

Lawyer claims carjacking suspect was off medications


---- — SALEM — The lawyer for a Peabody woman charged in a carjacking and police chase Wednesday morning said yesterday that family members believe his client had stopped taking medications for a mental illness before the episode.

Rosa Maria Guarino, 31, of 20 Crane Ave., screamed for court officers to “Let me out of here,” and cried out for help from a holding cell just outside of the Salem District Court session, where her attorney asked a judge to order a competency evaluation.

Her cries led members of her family, including her mother, to begin crying, as well, and several women ran from the courtroom sobbing as Judge Michael Lauranzano ordered Guarino held without bail overnight.

She will be back in Salem District Court today to meet with a court psychologist before she is arraigned on charges that include driving while under the influence of drugs.

Her attorney, Gary Zerola, said outside court that he does not believe his client, who has no prior record, had actually ingested drugs, despite what she allegedly told officers about using “crack and dope” after her arrest.

Instead, said Zerola, Guarino, the mother of a 10-year-old who lives with her and her mother, had stopped taking her prescribed medication.

Zerola declined to say what illness Guarino has been diagnosed with, but he said that the allegations are uncharacteristic of the woman.

“Whatever is alleged in the police report is totally inconsistent with Ms. Guarino’s behavior prior to the incident,” said Zerola, who was hired by Guarino’s family.

Guarino will face more serious charges in Peabody, where a judge issued a warrant yesterday charging her with two counts of carjacking and other offenses. After she appears again in Salem, she will either be sent to a state hospital for evaluation or to Peabody District Court to face those charges, court officials indicated.

Police allege that shortly after 11 a.m. Guarino, who had been seen acting strangely inside the Stop & Shop in Peabody, approached a woman outside the store and tried to take her car.

A second woman, driving a red Chevrolet Prizm, approached and tried to help, only to be assaulted and then robbed of her car, allegedly by Guarino.

The Prizm was spotted on Loring Avenue by a Marblehead police officer working a detail. The car was then pursued back into downtown Salem, where Guarino drove through Riley Plaza, over at least one traffic island, down Norman Street, over another traffic island and onto Summer Street, where it was soon boxed in by police.

Guarino was ordered out of the car at gunpoint. According to the police report, Guarino was “manic,” yelling and screaming and making little sense.

Besides driving while under the influence of drugs, carjacking and assault and battery charges, Guarino is facing a long list of moving violations, including driving to endanger.

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