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2 involved in standoff have string of aliases, arrests

Union Leader Correspondent

January 16. 2014 12:33AM
Melissa Amato and Daren Gragg were arraigned via video from the Rockingham County jail on charges stemming from a standoff with police at their Hampton Falls apartment Tuesday night. JASON SCHREIBER 

SEABROOK — A man and woman facing charges in several other communities for a host of crimes were each ordered held on $110,000 cash bail Wednesday after they allegedly broke into a neighbor's apartment in Hampton Falls and barricaded themselves inside during an eight-hour standoff with police.

Daren Gragg, 37, and Melissa Amato, 31, were arraigned in Seabrook Circuit Court via video conference from the Rockingham County jail on one count of felony burglary and a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest or detention.

The pair was arrested Tuesday night after a standoff that began when police showed up at their apartment at 24 Lafayette Road, Apt. 7 in Hampton Falls and attempted to question them after they allegedly fled from Amesbury, Mass., police earlier in the day.

During their arraignment, prosecutor Mandie Werner sought high cash bail for the two because they've had a history of failing to appear in court. In addition to past convictions for crimes that include first-degree assault and theft, Gragg is currently facing several other unrelated charges. Werner said they include impersonating a police officer in Derry, Londonderry and Manchester, and several charges of obtaining a controlled drug using a false name in Derry and Keene.

Amato faces charges that include allegedly forging prescriptions in Hudson and has an active arrest warrant in Derry for obtaining a controlled drug using a false name.

"I don't even know about a lot of those charges," Amato said after Werner listed other charges she's facing.

The pair is also suspected of breaking into at least 10 vehicles in several towns, including Hampton, Portsmouth, Salem, and Seabrook, Werner said. She said many of the stolen items were found in the pair's apartment after their latest run-in with police began Tuesday morning in Amesbury, Mass. According to a police affidavit by Hampton Falls Lt. Thomas Boynton, Amesbury police approached the two, who were in a rental car with New Jersey plates. Police believed the two were in possession of stolen property. While police attempted to identify them, Boynton said they fled in the vehicle.

Werner said at some point, the two ditched the rental car and got a ride back to their Hampton Falls apartment.

Amesbury police asked Hampton Falls police to respond to the residence. When Detective Joseph Lister arrived, he found a man and woman later identified as Gragg and Amato exiting a car and entering 24 Lafayette Road, Apt. 7, the affidavit said.

He knocked on the door several times, but no one opened it.

"At this time we believe that the couple had broken into unit 8 with the intent to resist detention or arrest, committing the crime of burglary," the affidavit said.

Landlord Paul LePere told police that he believed the two had firearms. Police found a loaded crossbow outside the residence; that was disarmed and secured. Inside the apartment, Werner said police didn't find a gun but did locate ammunition for a .45-caliber firearm and loaded magazines. Gragg is not allowed to possess firearms, Werner said.

Police said the pair remained barricaded inside the apartment until they agreed to surrender around 6:45 p.m.

Amato tried to argue for lower bail, insisting that she would show up for her court dates despite her past failures to appear.

"I think as long as I'd be around my family, I'd be alright," she told Judge Sharon DeVries.

But when DeVries asked about her contact with family, Amato said she hadn't seen her family members in about two years.

"It's highly unlikely you're going to show up for any hearing date I give you," DeVries said.

Before his arraignment, Gragg objected to the media photographing and videotaping the proceedings. He said he wanted to talk to his public defender about the case first."I'd like to find out all that before the media can distort things the way they do," he told the judge, who did allow cameras in the courtroom.

Both are due back in court for a probable cause hearing on Jan. 29.

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