Kingston man accused of stealing giant mushroom capBy Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent
January 31. 2012 11:37PM
Richard Frati, 20, was nabbed by police in Amesbury, Mass., on Saturday after a wild mushroom caper that began when he allegedly swiped the red and white polka-dot cap off a 3-foot tall plaster mushroom outside Mill 77 Trading Co. in Amesbury. When a pair of customers noticed Frati allegedly ripping off the mushroom cap, police said they tried to block him with their car and then pursued him into New Hampshire. They cut off the chase when they estimated Frati's Buick hit 80 miles an hour.
'They are very loyal customers,' said Gary Bergeron, co-owner of the antique, collectibles and consignment shop at 77 Elm St.
Trouble sprouted up around 3:30 p.m. when Bergeron said the couple, a husband and wife believed to be in their 60s, were driving behind Frati and saw him pull over to the sidewalk as he was passing the store where four plaster mushrooms were sitting outside.
Bergeron had just stuck the mushrooms outside on Saturday because the weather was nice.
The mushrooms were handmade from plaster and originally served as a prop for a pharmaceutical company's enchanted forest-themed function, Bergeron said. They're now being sold for $275 to $375 or rented out.
'They wondered what he was doing, pulling over so quickly,' Bergeron said of the couple.
Moments later the couple reported that Frati threw the mushroom cap into his vehicle.
'He really, really wanted that mushroom. They're pretty fun looking,' Bergeron said.
Amesbury police Lt. Jeff Worthen said the couple backed up and tried to block Frati from getting away, but he managed to get around them and took off.
The couple followed him into New Hampshire but eventually gave up when speeds reached an estimated 80 mph. They called police, turned around and headed back to Amesbury, where they met up with Officer Tom Hanshaw.
A short time later, as they were talking to police, Frati went by them and Hanshaw went after him. Frati was stopped and a woman in his car showed police where the mushroom was hidden behind a bush not far from where he was pulled over, Worthen said.
The mushroom cap was returned to Bergeron, and Frati was released on bail after pleading not guilty to a larceny charge in Newburyport District Court on Monday.
According to a police report, Frati admitted that he 'has a tendency to do stupid things and needs to be more responsible.'
Meanwhile, Frati is scheduled to appear in Rockingham County Superior Court on Feb. 29 for a plea and sentencing hearing after he was indicted in December on a burglary charge. Frati is accused of entering a home at 17 Washington Way in Kingston without permission and assaulting a man on Sept. 5.
According to an affidavit from Kingston Officer Christopher Paris, Frati entered the home while 19-year-old Samuel McLellan was taking a shower. After some words were exchanged between the two men, who know each other, McLellan told police that Frati charged at him in the shower, breaking the glass shower door onto him. McLellan said he fell and became trapped in the shower. Frati allegedly pulled McLellan from the shower and 'started punching him in the face and neck continuously,' the affidavit said.
It's not clear whether the latest charge in the Massachusetts mushroom case will impact the burglary case in New Hampshire, but one thing is known: 'We don't get too many complaints about mushroom thefts,' said Worthen.