BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — DANVERS — A well-known former Salem cabinetmaker charged last fall with a brazen armed holdup at a Danvers supermarket has been cleared, in what his attorney believes was a case of mistaken identity.
Roger Hedstrom, 57, of Rowley, who once appeared on the PBS show “This Old House,” was charged with the Nov. 10 holdup at the Endicott Street Market Basket store after an employee at Middleton Jail and Rowley police officers thought that he resembled a surveillance photo of the Danvers robbery suspect, who, like Hedstrom, is a thin, middle-aged man.
The clerks at the customer service window of the supermarket subsequently identified his photo in an array they were shown by Danvers police. They said they believed that the photo showed the man who walked in with a gun and then ran off with $5,000.
Rowley police also noted that as he was being arrested on a domestic violence charge in Rowley, they heard him warn his wife not to “rat him out.”
But yesterday, the armed robbery charges were dismissed against Hedstrom during a hearing in Salem District Court.
“This was a case of mistaken identity,” said defense lawyer John Bonistalli, who noted that his client had no prior history of robbery.
Bonistalli said his client had been suffering a relapse of an alcohol problem at the time and was concerned that his drinking could jeopardize his visits with his children from a prior marriage, when he made the comment about being “ratted out.”
Hedstrom and his wife were home the evening of the holdup, watching on-demand movies, until he fell asleep, the lawyer said.
Hedstrom was subsequently arrested on a domestic abuse charge following an altercation with his wife, and that’s when the jail officials and police erroneously linked him to the holdup. The domestic abuse case has since been continued without a finding by a Newburyport District Court judge, with conditions that include alcohol treatment, which Hedstrom recently underwent.
Hedstrom spent several weeks in custody at Middleton Jail, unable to come up with the $5,000 cash bail set in his case.
Police have not charged anyone else with the Market Basket holdup. But around the same time last November, another man, Dennis Porter, 43, of Lynn, was charged in a series of four holdups between Nov. 16 and Nov. 30 in Salem, Beverly, Danvers and Peabody. Porter is being held on $100,000 cash bail.
Porter, like Hedstrom, is tall and thin, though Hedstrom has close-cropped dark hair, while Porter’s is lighter in color and wavy.
Bonistalli had photos of both men with him when he went to court yesterday. He said he was appreciative that prosecutors in the district attorney’s office were willing to take a closer look at the case.
Prosecutors did not formally state their reasons for seeking a dismissal of the charge, but a prosecutor yesterday also told Judge Michael Lauranzano that they are not seeking an indictment in the case either.