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Home » News » Crime

July 30. 2013 10:09PM

Prosecutors: Plumber helped plan Deerfield break-in, robbery


Christopher Martin, 40, of Danbury listens to arguments during his conspiracy to commit burglary trial in Rockingham County Superior Court on Tuesday. Martin is accused of targeting a Deerfield home with two others in June 2011. (JAMES A. KIMBLE PHOTO)

BRENTWOOD — A plumber who allegedly provided the layout of a Deerfield home to accomplices who stole $20,000 in cash and a box of silver was described by prosecutors as a key participant to the break-in who never set foot in the home during the heist.

Prosecutors said Christopher Martin, 40, of Danbury, formed a plan with two others to carry out the June 29, 2011, burglary so a large safe could be raided for money and an assortment of valuables.

"He came up with the perfect score. It was a perfect target," Assistant County Attorney Michael Zaino said during opening arguments in Rockingham County Superior Court.

Martin is facing charges of conspiracy to commit burglary and acting as an accomplice to Jacob Palo, 37, of Concord and his girlfriend Sherri Avnet, 34, of Manchester, who were both convicted for their roles in the case.

Defense lawyer Michael Anderson described Martin as a successful businessman, a family man and longtime friend of the victim, Dr. Arthur Cutter.

Anderson said his client had nothing to gain by participating in the burglary.

"The real actors have already been convicted," Anderson said. "This is just a case of taking somebody down with him."

Palo stormed into Cutter's house sometime around 6:30 p.m., and brutally beat the local veterinarian before directing him to the safe in his bedroom. Palo is serving a 20 to 40 year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a litany of charges, including first-degree assault.

Cutter testified on Tuesday that he first thought the man at his front door was a client from his veterinarian business that he had forgotten to take care of earlier in the day.

"Unfortunately, I opened the front door," Cutter said. "It never got completely open. Whoever it was, he kicked the door open and knocked me down and he was rapidly on top of me, whacking me over the head with the gun. He had a choke hold on my neck. I felt like I could barely breathe."

Cutter said he was able to flee down into his cellar and into the woods to escape from his attacker, who lifted up his ski mask to take a cigarette break. Cutter later received 50 staples in his head to recover from his injuries.

Cutter testified that his attacker knew the layout of his home, and focused on the bedroom where the safe was kept.

Zaino told jurors that Martin had worked on a bathroom sink only accessible from Cutter's bedroom.

Avnet, who was sentenced to two to seven years for her role in the case, testified how Palo and Martin were friends who sometimes shared drugs and discussed a plan to burglarize Cutter's safe.

Martin was to get a share of the cash stolen from the home, she testified.

"I think both of them thought it would be pretty easy," Avnet testified. "In and out."

Avnet told jurors she was living with Palo in Manchester at the time of the burglary. They were both unemployed and doing drugs — including heroin and cocaine on a near daily basis, she testified.

She served as a lookout while the burglary was under way, perched at a home near Cutter's residence, sending text messages to Martin, according to Zaino.

One of those texts that Martin allegedly sent to Avnet once Palo fled from the home read: "Stop texting. Lose the phone. Throw it."

When Avnet panicked about a large police response to the house, another text from Martin allegedly advised Avnet: "Walk and hide," followed by, "Wait where you are. He will be there. Just stay hidden OK."

Police found Avnet with two backpacks that had a journal with hand drawn plans of Cutter's house, burglary tools and extra sets of license plates. The trial is scheduled to continue today.

jkimble@newtote.com


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