BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — It was a case that had long ago gone cold.
But an Ohio man’s conscience finally caught up with him, and now the February 2005 holdup at what was then known as TD Banknorth branch on Loring Avenue has been solved.
Matthew Kurent, 42, of Lebanon, Ohio, was an inmate at the Warren County Correctional Institution last April when he told a social worker that he wanted to come clean about things, including a bank robbery back in 2005.
Yesterday, a “not guilty” plea to a charge of armed robbery was entered on Kurent’s behalf during his arraignment in Salem District Court, where he was ordered held on $50,000 bail, an agreement reached between prosecutor Patrick Collins and Kurent’s lawyer, Ray Buso.
Police said at the time that the suspect went into the bank at around 6:30 p.m. with a note demanding that money be placed on the counter, and indicated that he had a gun, according to a Salem News report of the incident.
Kurent was recently returned to Massachusetts to face the charges, after completing a sentence in Ohio.
An Ohio corrections department investigator contacted police in Massachusetts.
Salem police detective Eric Connolly had the investigator look at a surveillance image of the robber in the 2005 case on the website “Mass Most Wanted,” and the investigator confirmed that it looked a lot like Kurent. Kurent was then shown the photo and confirmed that it was him.
But police here wanted to be sure, so they sent a hat the robber was wearing, found behind another nearby bank on the night of the robbery, for DNA testing. They also had to figure out whether the statute of limitations had expired in the case, which was more than seven years old.
Kurent’s criminal history, however, solved that problem.
Kurent had been caught as a result of a tip from the public following a 2005 Weymouth holdup that was very similar to the one in Salem, and went to jail for that crime as well as some larceny charges on the North Shore, according to news accounts.
In 2008, he was returned to Ohio to answer to warrants there, according to a Salem News report on the case. Because he had left the state, the statute of limitations stopped tolling, police and prosecutors believe.
Kurent returned to Massachusetts briefly in late 2008, but was arrested again and sent back to Ohio in early 2009, again stopping the clock on the statute of limitations.
Finally, police wanted to be sure that Kurent was confessing to the right robbery. Kurent, in an interview, told Connolly that the bank he held up was near a karate studio and a doctor’s office. Connolly noted in his report that in 2005, there were both in the Vinnin Square strip mall.
In December, Connolly obtained a warrant.
Kurent, who is unlikely to post the $50,000 bail in the case, will be back in court April 1 for a probable cause hearing.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.