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January 29, 2014

Armed burglary suspect held without bail

SALEM — “So, he took $27?” the defense attorney asked the Salem woman, who had awakened in the middle of the night to find a man standing in her bedroom doorway earlier this month.

“Yes,” she said.

“And a knife from your kitchen?” asked the lawyer.

“Yes,” said the woman.

But the man took one more thing, the woman told the defense attorney: “My sense of safety.”

On Monday, a Salem District Court judge ordered the defendant, Michael Arsenault, 20, held without bail as a danger to the public, following a dangerousness hearing.

Defense attorney William Martin tried to persuade Judge Michael Lauranzano that his client was “in all likelihood ... high on drugs, alcohol or some combination of both” when he entered the woman’s house on Dearborn Street just before 2 a.m. on Jan. 14.

“What he needs is an outpatient program,” Martin said. “He needs a mental health evaluation. There’s a lot more going on here.”

But prosecutor Alex Grimes argued that Arsenault’s actions that night went beyond those of a drunk looking for money or food.

Earlier in the evening, Arsenault had gotten into a violent confrontation over a $7 package of beef jerky he was caught trying to steal from the 7-Eleven on North Street (Route 114), Grimes said. Then, inside the house, he not only stole money and a blank check from the woman’s wallet but armed himself with a knife.

The woman testified Monday that Arsenault shushed her as she begged him, “Please, just go; please, just go,” over and over.

“He didn’t say he was going to harm me, but someone holding a knife at quarter of two in the morning ...” said the woman, trailing off.

Arsenault also had cut her phone lines and unplugged her wireless Internet router, she testified.

“You go into someone’s home holding a knife in the wee hours of the morning — that is an extraordinarily dangerous thing to do,” argued Grimes.

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