EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 21, 2013

Police: Man stole purse, car as he leaves hospital

Thefts from workers come after his diabetes treatment

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Walter Vitalone Jr. apparently received good care at Merrimack Valley Hospital, but didn’t show much gratitude when he was discharged, police said.

They said Vitalone, 25, took a hospital volunteer’s pocketbook as he walked out of the building, then broke into two cars and stole a third car in the parking lot.

When one of the stolen car’s tires went flat in the lot, he tried to run away, but officers caught him as he tried to climb over a fence, police said. A witness photographed Vitalone breaking into one of the vehicles, police said.

According to police reports, Vitalone was in the hospital receiving treatment for complications related to diabetes. When he was released from the hospital on Tuesday, he went on the stealing spree, police said.

Vitalone of 43 Varnum St. is charged with larceny of a motor vehicle, larceny from a motor vehicle under $250, larceny from a motor vehicle over $250, disorderly conduct, wanton destruction of property under $250 and resisting arrest.

He was arraigned on the charges in Haverhill District Court.

Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo said one of Vitalone’s victims told police her pocketbook was stolen while Vitalone at the hospital.

“He stuck her pocketbook in his hospital discharge bag,” DePaulo said.

Another victim told police the baseball cap Vitalone was wearing when he was arrested was taken from her car, while another victim said the $200 she had in her car’s glove compartment was missing.

“This is somebody with a bad drug problem,” DePaulo said.

DePaulo told the court that Vitalone has a “brutal record” of criminal offenses, while Vitalone’s defense lawyer, Joseph Gannon, said past charges against him were all dismissed.

Judge Stephen Abany ordered Vitalone held on $10,000 cash bail, and told him he has the right to a bail review in Essex Superior Court. The judge also issued Vitalone a 60-day warning, meaning if he charged with another offense while his case is pending he could be held for up to 60 days without bail.

According to a police report on file in Haverhill District Court, on Tuesday at 4:44 p.m. officers were sent to the hospital on a report of a stolen pocketbook. When Patrolman Thomas Howell arrived, hospital staff who were waiting outside pointed to the employee parking lot, where other people pointed to a man wearing a green shirt who was running toward the parking lot fence.

According to Howell’s report, several people who were in the parking lot yelled, “That’s him. That’s the one who stole the car.” A foot chase ensued, and Howell grabbed Vitalone’s leg while he was trying to climb over another fence in the backyard of a home on Groveland Street.

Howell said he recognized Vitalone from past police cases. Howell said Vitalone received small cuts to his wrists and a small scratch to his right leg while climbing the fence. He noted that Vitalone was cooperative and refused treatment for the injuries.

According to Howell’s report, Vitalone admitted to entering two vehicles and stealing a third, but that he ran over something, causing the right front tire of the stolen car to go flat.

A hospital volunteer told police that she was sitting next to Vitalone in the hospital at one point and, after he left the building, she realized her pocketbook was missing.

Police said they found the pocketbook, with its contents intact, inside the car they allege Vitalone stole. The owner of the car, a female employee of the hospital, told police a Red Sox hat was missing from her car. Police said Vitalone was wearing the hat when he was caught and that it was returned to its owner.

A nurse told police that two $100 bills were missing from the glove compartment of her car. Police said they were unable to locate the money.

Another hospital employee told police that she used her cell phone to take photos of Vitalone while he was inside the car he stole. The photos were provided to police as evidence.