NEWBURYPORT – Months after a neighbor began smashing her front door with a metal rod in an alcohol-fueled rage, the mother of two elementary school-aged children broke down Tuesday in Newburyport District Court, asking a judge to do what she could to keep her children safe.
Earl Pierce, 58, of Hardy Street was charged in June with attempted breaking and entering in the nighttime for a felony, vandalizing property and assault with a dangerous weapon.
In court Tuesday, Pierce was sentenced to two years of probation after pleading guilty to vandalizing property and a reduced charge of assault. The breaking-and-entering charge was dismissed as part of his plea deal with an Essex County prosecutor.
While on probation, Pierce must remain drug and alcohol free with random screens, use a SCRAM monitoring device to ensure he does not drink alcohol, attend four AA meetings a week, have no contact with the victims, abide by a restraining order already in place, and continue mental health evaluations.
But before Judge Patricia Dowling sentenced Pierce, one of the victims stepped to the podium and, breaking down several times, said the defendant’s actions had a significant impact on her “children’s sense of safety and security” as well as her own.
“I have never felt more directly threatened for my physical safety,” the woman said, adding that she wondered if she or her children would ever feel safe walking past Pierce’s home.
Before heading back to the gallery, she asked Dowling to do all she could to ensure her family would not be harmed.
Dowling then turned to Pierce and said, “You were out of your mind that night.”
“You caused a lot of trouble that night and it sounds like you were under the influence of something, so I am concerned about that,” Dowling said.
The woman called police at 1:15 a.m. on June 16 after a stranger began pounding on her front door while screaming, according to a police report.
“He was screaming ‘open this door’ and ‘let me into your (expletive) house,” the victim’s husband wrote in his report to police.
The husband wrote that fearing for their children’s safety, the couple brought them to a room farthest away from the front door in case Pierce managed to break it down.
Newburyport police Sgt. Jason Kohan arrived and watched as West Newbury police Officer Pat Clay handcuffed Pierce on the front porch. Kohan said police found a 30-inch-long metal bar on the porch that Pierce used when banging on the door.
“Once Mr. Pierce was handcuffed, he began to state that they were trying to get him,” Kohan wrote in his report. “I asked him who. He said his girlfriend and his sister. He said that they were trying to eat them. It appears that Mr. Pierce thinks he escaped from his house and was seeking refuge from his girlfriend” at a house in the neighborhood.
The victims have lived in the same neighborhood as Pierce for 10 years and kept interaction to a minimum based on what they called his “substance abuse” issues and a persistent history of disruptive behavior in the neighborhood, according to court documents.
In 2011, Pierce faced a charge of cruelty to animals, which was continued without a finding for a year, and a disorderly conduct charge, which the court dismissed.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.