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Mass. K-9 tracks down 2 suspects in 2 hours

Trigger and his handler tracked through rough terrain to find a thief and a woman with an active warrant

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
The Eagle-Tribune

SALEM, Mass. — Trigger, 2; suspects, 0.

One of the Salem Police Department's two K-9s is credited with helping capture two suspects within two hours — one in Salem, the other in Pelham.

"Any time your K-9 goes for two-for-two in tracking in one night, it's a good night," Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said.

Trigger, a three-year member of the department, and partner Officer Dan Nelson first tracked a suspected copper thief late Wednesday night then headed to Pelham to help find a suspect there.

"Officer Nelson and Trigger do a great job tracking," Patten said. "It was about a half-mile track through some rough terrain."

The first call came at 11:37 p.m. for a report of suspicious activity at 25 Duston Road. A neighbor called police after watching a suspicious vehicle circling the neighborhood. The caller also believed there was someone walking around inside a vacant house on the property, Patten said.

Nelson, Trigger and Officer Rick Nicosia were the first to respond. The officers found an open door and Trigger reacted immediately to a fresh scent.

Nelson and his K-9 partner tracked the suspect for through a large field, scaling stone walls and a 6-foot fence, Patten said.

The search ended in a back yard on Eyssi Drive, where Trigger found Richard McPhee, 34, of Haverhill.

McPhee kicked at the dog, but he was soon taken into custody, Patten said.

He is charged with one felony count of burglary, simple assault, resisting arrest, felony criminal mischief and on a bench warrant out of Plaistow.

Police found copper piping piled in a trash barrel by the door of the vacant home and found evidence of pipes being cut out of the home. McPhee is suspected of cutting the pipe.

His alleged accomplice, Julia Auler, 44, of Salem, was circling the neighborhood, at the wheel of the suspicious vehicle the neighbor spotted, Patten said.

She, too, was arrested and charged with being an accomplice to burglary, receiving stolen property and possession of a controlled drug, hydrocodone, a commonly prescribed opioid.

Patten said he believes police interrupted McPhee while he was stripping copper and Auler was circling the area, waiting to pick him up.
The two also are suspected of being connected to another burglary Tuesday night. In that incident, a house on Zion Hill Road was stripped of its copper piping, he said.

"I give props to the neighbor who was paying attention and alerted us," Patten said. "They probably, in all reality, stopped a burglary spree."

McPhee refused the services of a bail commissioner and was being held pending his arraignment. Auler was held for lack of $5,000 cash bail Wednesday night.

After successfully tracking McPhee, Nelson and Trigger were called to Pelham to assist police there with a search for a suspect there.

Pelham police had responded to a domestic disturbance. They discovered a woman involved in the fight had an active arrest warrant. She fled the scene on foot, running into the woods.

Again, Neslon and Trigger tracked the suspect for about half a mile before she was found and arrested.

Pelham police did not return phone calls seeking more information.

Copyright 2013 The Eagle-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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