Police Say Salem's Armed Carjacker is Suspect in Peabody Case Too
Police said a carjacking in Salem Tuesday launched an investigation that involved two local departments.
A Salem man was arrested Tuesday after an armed carjacking in the Witch City, and police believe the same man is responsible for a similar incident that occurred in Peabody on Sunday.
Johan M. Morales, 39, of 14 Heritage Dr. is facing charges of carjacking, larceny of a motor vehicle, two counts of assault and battery by a dangerous weapon and four counts of larceny of property over $250 in connection with the Salem incident after a swift investigation Tuesday.
The Salem Police issued a press release on the investigation at approximately 11 p.m. Tuesday night.
Two Days, Two Carjackings
On Tuesday at approximately 2:30 p.m., police said Officers Dee-Jay Gagnon and Charlene Sano responded to Goodhue Street on a carjacking report. Scanner reports indicated the victim was maced, and the suspect fled in a black truck.
The victim was treated on scene by Atlantic Ambulance, police said.
Police said the Salem incident was similar to an Aug. 26 incident in the Summit Industrial Park in Peabody in which "an out‐of‐state tire service technician was called to service a vehicle. Once there, the technician was attacked with pepper spray, beaten and his vehicle stolen," according to police. In that case, authorities said the vehicle stolen was filled with tires and and tools.
Salem Police said Peabody Det. Robert Church overheard Salem's be-on-the-lookout issued to neighboring communities on Tuesday afternoon and "immediately contacted Salem Detectives, providing additional investigative details offering assistance."
Less than an hour after the carjacking Tuesday, Salem Police said the stolen truck was found parked on Federal Street approximately two blocks from the crime scene, and the vehicle was missing four tires worth a total of $2400.
The Colby Street Connection
The Salem Police responded to Colby Street on Aug. 24 on a report of a truck parked in a lot, and Officer Sano made contact with the driver, Johan M. Morales, at the time, according to police. Additionally, "Officer Sano stated that the description of Mr. Morales fits the description of the suspect in the Salem carjacking," police said.
On Aug. 26, the day of the Peabody carjacking, the stolen vehicle in that case was recovered on Colby Street, which is adjacent to Heritage Drive in the Gallows Hill area, where the suspect resides, police said.
With this additional information, police said they continued their investigation Tuesday. The victim was able to identify Morales as the assailant, police said, and surveillance was set up at the suspect's Heritage Drive address.
"When police encountered him in his apartment they were able to observe several large tires matching the stolen property still at large," Salem Police said. "Additionally, an acquaintance of Morales told police Morales had recently stored tools and new tires in her vehicle parked in the parking lot. Police seized that vehicle as evidence."
A Flint Street resident also located a can of mace on her doorstep, police said. Flint Street is located fairly close to the Salem carjacking crime scene.
Salem and Peabody Working Together
Morales is being held on $10,000 cash bail and is due in Salem District Court Wednesday.
Salem Police said a search warrant is being sought for the suspect's residence.
The suspect is currently cooperating with authorities in both cities, according to the Salem Police.
Det. Lt. Stephen Bona is heading the Salem investigation along with Salem Officers Sano, Gagnon, Gerrard and Burke as well as Detectives Brennan, Gaudet and B. St. Pierre. Det. Robert Church of Peabody is also working on the case.
Police indicated an arrest photo is not currently available "due to the circumstance of the investigation," police said.