BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — SALEM — Assistant District Attorney Gerald Shea used his index finger to trace a line from his right ear to his chin to illustrate how Patrolman John Melto was slashed on the morning of Aug. 19. 2011.
Convicted Level 3 sex offender Roy Limbaugh is accused in the attack.
Shea’s opening remarks during the start of yesterday’s attempted-murder trial in Salem Superior Court revealed details of the bloody altercation that took place as Melto conducted surveillance on Limbaugh’s trailer at 37 Popes Lane.
In front of the jury of eight men and six women, Limbaugh, acting as his own attorney, denied the attack. He faces seven charges, including failing to register as a sex offender, armed assault to murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He has pleaded not guilty.
On the morning of the attack, Melto went looking for Limbaugh because a state trooper asked Danvers police to arrest him on motor vehicle warrants out of Somerville and Concord district courts, Shea said. Danvers Detective Timothy Williamson also wanted to speak to Limbaugh because his sex offender registry form said he was “self-employed” and lacked a workplace address.
Limbaugh was convicted of assault to commit rape in 1999, and Shea said “his status was not updated properly.”
Limbaugh yesterday said he was working as an independent contractor who made deliveries for a living. There was some conflicting testimony about exactly when Limbaugh left a former job as a delivery driver for a Middleton sunroom installer.
In the days leading up to the attack, Williamson asked Melto, who works the night shift, to find Limbaugh after Williamson was unable to do so during the day from Aug. 5-15. In the meantime, Williamson had Limbaugh’s delivery truck towed from Popes Lane because its registration had been revoked. Limbaugh’s RV and a black Ford Explorer were also unregistered.
After the delivery truck was towed, Limbaugh called Williamson but then failed to show up at the police station for an interview. The day before the attack, Melto went to Limbaugh’s address and confiscated the plates from the RV and the Ford Explorer, Shea said.
The following morning, Melto parked his cruiser at Manter Construction at 20 Popes Lane. At 5:15 a.m., he saw a light go on in the mobile home, so he walked over and knocked on the door, Shea said.
“‘Danvers police, I’m looking for Roy Limbaugh,’” Melto said, according to Shea. A voice answered back, “No, he’s not here.” Shea said the officer announced through the door that he had a warrant for Limbaugh’s arrest and that it would be easier for everyone involved if he cooperated. The voice asked Melto “‘to get off my property,’” Shea said. Melto walked back to his cruiser.
Surveillance cameras show that, unbeknownst to Melto, Limbaugh left and got into a red Volkswagen Jetta and headed south toward Route 1, Shea said. Melto was driving up Popes Lane when he saw a car heading toward him. Limbaugh had apparently doubled back, and Melto did not know what kind of car Limbaugh was driving or even what Limbaugh looked like. He assumed it was a lost driver, Shea said.
The car slowed, stopped, backed up, and pulled forward and stopped. Someone got out, Shea said. Melto exited his cruiser, and the person asked Melto, using profanity, if he was the one who had come to his door, according to the prosecutor.
Limbaugh said something like “let me tell you” before raising his hand to strike Melto, Shea said.
Melto blocked the first blow. A scuffle ensued, and Melto tried to get Limbaugh in a bear hug, Shea said. Melto was jabbed in the back of the head. Melto sprayed Limbaugh in the face with pepper spray and went for his collapsible baton, the prosecutor said.
“When he does that, he realizes his hand is all wet,” Shea said.
Limbaugh got into his car, and Melto stuck his baton in the door to try to stop him, poking Limbaugh in the chest, Shea said.
“Mr. Limbaugh just looks at him and pulls away,” Shea said. Melto then felt liquid running down his chest. He got back into his cruiser and called for help. He then drove down back to 37 Popes Lane and circled around looking for Limbaugh.
“At that point, he started feeling dizzy and weak,” Shea said. Melto called in a description of Limbaugh’s car and drove to the nearby Brutole Restaurant on Route 1. Police responded, and Melto was taken to the hospital.
Melto suffered a number of wounds to his arm, wrist and neck. His hand was sliced so that a nerve was cut, and his throat was slashed four times.
Limbaugh was arrested in a small industrial park in Stoughton by local and state police. The weapon used to slash Melto was not recovered, Shea said. In a videotaped interview, Limbaugh denied he had a weapon and said the officer must have scratched his throat during the scuffle.
“Mr. Limbaugh had no injuries whatsoever,” said Shea, who added that Melto’s blood was found on Limbaugh.
“You just heard from the prosecutor the most fraudulent statements,” Limbaugh said yesterday. “I did not commit those injuries.”
The trial resumes Thursday.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.