By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A Salisbury man accused of robbing the Storey Avenue Shell gas station at knife-point last November was arraigned in Salem Superior Court last week following his indictment and is being held pending a pretrial conference next month.
Christopher Lee Watkins, 27, of 169 Bridge Road, left, Salisbury, was arrested a week after police say he entered the gas station just before closing on Nov. 2, brandished a knife and stole $727 from the attendant on-duty. The employee complied with Watkins’ demands and was uninjured. Police said the victim chased after Watkins long enough to see him run down Low Street.
Following the incident, police issued a warrant for Watkins’ arrest based on evidence collected at the scene, follow-up interviews and a check of the suspect’s Facebook page, where he goes by the name “Swisstopher Watkins” and he stated in a post, “They won’t get me again.”
Police also obtained important information after checking the Facebook profiles of his associates. One of his closest friends is seen wearing a sweatshirt remarkably similar to the one Watkins wore when he allegedly robbed the Shell station, according to court documents.
After his arrest, Watkins was charged with armed and masked robbery and indicted in Salem Superior Court on Jan. 17. He is being held on $20,000 bail and is due back in the Salem courthouse on March 20 for a pretrial conference.
Watkins, who in 2005 was sentenced to five years at Cedar Junction prison in Walpole after being convicted of robbing the Seacoast Mobil station on Storey Avenue, had worked at Michael’s Harborside on the Newburyport waterfront and most recently at Caldwell’s Corner gas station at the bottom of Kent Street before it closed.
Shortly before the Shell station was robbed Nov. 2, police received word of a similar attempted robbery at Kelly’s Global station on High Street a few minutes earlier. According to police, the Global employee had just closed for the night and was leaving the premises when the suspect approached him holding a knife. The suspect ordered the employee to hand over all money, but the employee was able to convince the would-be thief that all money for the day had been placed in a safe.
Police are still looking into the possibility that Watkins may have been involved in the attempted armed robbery at the Global station, which occurred 15 minutes before the Shell station one-quarter mile away was robbed.