Driver remains jailed on 15th drunken driving arrest

Ken Yuszkus/Staff photo The arraignment of Peter Anketell in Salem District Court. 7/12/17

SALEM — Peter Anketell has agreed to remain behind bars until his trial, after a prosecutor Tuesday handed a judge a stack of nearly three dozen documents detailing Anketell's nearly 40-year history of drinking and driving. 

Anketell, prosecutors now say, is facing his 15th drunken driving charge since 1978, a record that includes 10 convictions in Massachusetts, three in New Hampshire and an open case in Florida. 

His most recent drunken driving conviction came as part of a 2002 vehicular homicide case that sent him to state prison for 12 years of a 14-year sentence imposed in 2004. He was paroled in 2014, and recently completed that parole. 

But the lengthy prison term for the death of a woman identified as his girlfriend, Cynthia Wilson, in a 2002 crash didn't deter Anketell, prosecutors now say. 

Anketell, 55, of 117 Lafayette St., Salem, was arrested again last Tuesday evening. Police say he took his girlfriend's Dodge Journey without her permission, after drinking and consuming prescription medication. 

Officers searched for the car and its driver for nearly an hour, before Anketell allegedly sped down Derby Street and barreled into a Speedway gas station, hitting a curb and nearly hitting two women as they came out of the building. 

When police caught up with Anketell in an adjacent parking lot, he had a 25-ounce can of Natural Ice beer on him and smelled of alcohol. He took a "fighting-type posture," police said. Officers took him to the ground and arrested him. 

Anketell pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last week on charges of drunken driving (fifth or subsequent offense), driving after license suspension for drunken driving, and illegal possession of prescription Xanax pills. During Tuesday's court appearance, he also pleaded not guilty to a new charge of driving negligently to endanger. 

Tuesday's hearing was scheduled to determine whether Anketell poses a danger if released. 

But after prosecutor Stefanie Stanbro handed the stack of evidence – which included police reports, court dockets, a photo and a video – to Judge Robert Brennan, Anketell's lawyer, Patrick Regan, said his client was stipulating, or agreeing, to being found dangerous and to remaining in custody. 

A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Aug. 17, but prosecutors indicated that they expect to seek a grand jury indictment against Anketell. 

If Anketell is convicted of a 15th offense, the maximum penalty he faces is five years in state prison. 

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

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