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June 17, 2014

Pregnant woman still 'huffing' after repeated arrests

SALEM — Just days before she is due to give birth, Susan Douglas is sitting in a jail cell, after being caught for the seventh time since March — three times on Sunday — “huffing” from a can of compressed air she had allegedly stolen.

Jail, a prosecutor suggested on Monday, is “the best of a number of bad alternatives.”

Douglas, 30, who is homeless, had no involvement in the criminal justice system until this past winter, said her lawyer, Patrick O’Malley, during a hearing in Salem District Court. Then she became the victim of a violent crime, he told Judge Matthew Machera.

Details of that incident were not available, but last October, her estranged husband, Michael Douglas, was arrested on a charge of domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon while the two were living together on Rainbow Terrace in Salem. Police had contact with the couple several more times in the following weeks.

“Huffing” from aerosol cans, which can contain solvents or chemical propellants, produces a state similar to that of alcohol, according to information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is also dangerous, with the potential to cause brain injury and cardiac problems.

In February, Salem police got a call about a woman in the restroom of CVS on Canal Street, inhaling from a can of Dust-Off. Douglas was charged with shoplifting and inhaling toxic vapors. In March, she was arrested twice in one week for the same thing in Leominster, the Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise reported. Earlier this month, she was again in Salem, where on the afternoon of June 5, police were called to CVS at 200 Essex St. on a report of a woman seen inside the store inhaling from a can of Dust-Off and who was now walking along Bridge Street, followed by a security guard. Police said they found two more cans on her.

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