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Baby Bird Survives Wild;

Birdnappers Linked to Fatal Crash in Pelham

by Andrea Ganley-Dannewitz

‘Miracle Harley’ (left) and his sibling spend time together at SeaWorld.  ‘Miracle Harley’ survived 70 hours in the wild with no food or warmth.

Joanne Leone, SeaWorld store manager and avian specialist, found the 7-week-old baby macaw that was stolen from the SeaWorld Pet Center Tuesday, September 18, on Friday evening.  The suspects in the case are identified as Jason Connolly, 34, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Joseph Murabito, 35, also of Lawrence.  Both have been linked to a fatal motor vehicle accident in Pelham that occurred the same evening.

The baby bird, a blue and gold macaw, was taken from the store that Tuesday around 6 p.m.  Twenty minutes later, authorities in Pelham responded to a motor vehicle accident on Bridge Street in Pelham.  The accident occurred when a silver Ford Taurus driven by Connolly crossed the centerline and crashed into a Harley-Davidson motorcycle driven by local motorcycle enthusiast John Sweren, 52, of Pelham.  Sweren died several hours later at a Boston hospital.

Joseph Murabito

Jason Connolly

The fact that a silver Ford Taurus was involved in both incidents prompted police to investigate a link between the two incidents, which ironically happened only 20 minutes apart.  The description of one of the men involved in the bird theft was similar to one of the occupants of the Taurus at the accident scene.

Leone received a tip from a witness to the Pelham accident: one suspect, who fled the scene of the accident, had a box with him when he ran into the woods near Charlie’s Auto Village.  Both Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Leone looked for the bird but came up empty handed.  On Friday evening, SeaWorld Pet Center employees, customers, and John Sweren’s family organized what was intended as a recovery effort to find the baby bird.  Fearing the bird could not have survived 70 hours without warmth and formula, he was feared to be deceased. 

The crew of volunteers searched through thick woods and swamplands behind Hammar and Sons Sign Company.  With the help of Leone’s two dogs, Sophie and Justice, Leone walked through swamp and brush.  Just as she was ready to just give up, it appeared Sophie was on to something.  She lost sight of the tiny dog when she thought she heard the bird call out to her.  Joanne said she thought she was just hearing things, but she called out, “Baby, it’s mama. Are you out there?”  That’s when she heard the baby call out again.  Joanne said she fell to her knees and just cried.

With the help of another employee, Joanne followed the sound of the baby bird.  She found the bird perched on a small branch, and the box was on the ground under the bird.  The bird, she named him ‘Miracle’, was clearly emaciated but had beat all the odds against him by surviving 70 hours in the wild.

The bird has since received medical care, is recovering at the store, and has been sold to a faithful SeaWorld customer who has a room at her home devoted to her 15-year-old macaw.  The bird’s new owner has named him ‘Miracle Harley’ to honor the life of John Sweren, who died in the Pelham accident allegedly caused by the birdnappers.  John Sweren was also a faithful SeaWorld customer who owned three birds himself.

The two men who stole the bird have not been charged in the Pelham accident.  Police in Pelham have not yet decided if they will charge Jason Connolly, the driver of the silver Ford Taurus, in the crash that killed John Sweren.  Even though Joseph Murabito fled on foot from the scene of the crash and originally denied being in the car, before admitting that he was in fact in the vehicle, will not face charges related to the accident.

Police in Salem had issued warrants for the arrests of both men on felony shoplifting charges.  On Monday, September 24, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Salem officers responded to a complaint at the Home Depot on South Broadway of a man trying to sell power tools in the parking lot.  Police discovered their suspect in this complaint to be none other than Jason Connolly. 

Connolly was apprehended at the Home Depot on the warrant for accomplice to felony shoplifting.  He was transported to the Salem Police Department for processing and then transported to Rockingham County Jail, to be held on $5,000 cash bail.  He was arraigned Tuesday, September 25, at Derry District Court.

Police have not yet been able to locate Joseph Murabito.  A warrant for his arrest has been issued by the Salem Police Department.  He is wanted for felony shoplifting in the case of the theft of the baby macaw, valued at $1,900.  If anyone has any information as to the whereabouts of Joseph Murabito, please call the Salem Police at 893-1911 or contact your local police agency.  If you wish to remain anonymous, call Southern New Hampshire Crime Line at 893-6600.

North Salem Elementary School Field Trip

by Sandra Patient

First graders from North Salem Elementary experienced their first field trip — apple-picking at Smolak Farms located in North Andover, Massachusetts.

Nichlos Mulry is feeding a Lama

Catherine Tripp picking an apple.

Dogfest at High School

by Jay Hobson

The Salem Animal Rescue League held its annual Dogfest at the busport of Salem High School from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The event featured contests and prizes as well as dogs of all shapes and sizes.  The cost of entering the various contests went to the Salem Animal Rescue League to aid in their efforts to raise awareness of responsible pet ownership and the promotion of pet adoptions.

Turnout was brisk and the weather played an important part in the activities.

Contests included smallest dog, largest dog, best costume, and best owner/dog look-a-like.  In the best owner/dog look-a-like contest, the winners were Pekinese Daisy Mae and her owner Shiela.

There was a photo contest including funniest dog, and food was available for minimal cost which serves to brighten any event.

Lee Stefanik with Great Pyrenees, Monk and Piper.

Christine Brogna with Timber.

Steve Mack with Maribel.

Terry White- volunteer for Derry Humane Society.

Selectmen’s Notes

by Jay Hobson

Selectmen voted to raise water and sewer rates to $3.00 and $3.35 respectively.  This brings the average four-member household increase to $215 more than last year with the increases needed to balance the respective budgets.

Finance director Jane Savastano appeared before the board and stated that the rates had to be increased due to rising costs and a drop in customer usage.

“So the taxpayer uses less water because we tell them they need to conserve and we raise their rates?  Merry Christmas,” Selectman Pat Hargreaves said.

“This isn’t the Federal Government.  We can’t run at a deficit,”  Board Chairman Everett McBride said.

“There’s got to be a way around this.  I don’t know what the solution is, but there’s got to be one out there,” Hargreaves said.

The board voted 4 – 1 with Hargreaves being the dissenter to raise the rates.

Chairman McBride called for a ten-minute recess, and when the board reassembled on the dias ten minutes later they continued discussion on the issue without re-opening the meeting.  When the members of the press approached the dias to hear the contents of the impromtu discussion, Chairman McBride re-opened the meeting.

Selectman Pat Hargreaves made a motion to unseal the minutes of past selectmen’s meeting that dealt with the recent hiring of incoming Town Manager Jonathan Sistare, but the motion failed.

The discussion prior to the vote hinged upon meetings that specifically discussed Sistare, and Selectman Lyons argued that the minutes should remain sealed indicating that he was afraid reputations would be injured, stating that “I specifically asked counsel at the Right to Know seminar and he (counsel) said that the minutes should remain sealed because reputations were at risk.”

“I have read the minutes and there is nothing detrimental or derogatory to anyone’s reputation in them,” Hargreaves said.

After a somewhat lengthy debate, the board voted to keep the minutes sealed until the board could review the matter on September 24.

John Maglio, Code Enforcement Officer, and Bill Scott, Community Development Director, brought a presentation to the board regarding signs that are placed on public right-of-ways, both for businesses and political candidates, stating that the signs are a “visual blight” and are in violation of law.

The new proposal would state that signs placed by individuals that are in violation would be removed and incur a fine of $50 for the first offense and $100 for each subsequent offense, and signs placed by businesses that are deemed to be in violation would cost the business $150 for the first offense and $300 for each subsequent offense.

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