Danbury man testifies in Deerfield home invasion case
BRENTWOOD — A Danbury plumber testified that he barely knew the man who carried out a violent home invasion that targeted a Deerfield veterinarian, suggesting to a jury that prosecutors were taking his interviews with state police out of context. Christopher Martin, 40, was the final witness during the third day of his trial in Rockingham County Superior Court, where he faces conspiracy to commit burglary and being an accomplice to the June 29, 2011, break-in.
Martin spent more than an hour on the witness stand, denying he had any role in planning the burglary at the home of Dr. Arthur Cutter, a family friend he did plumbing work for.
He steadfastly denied any knowledge about plans by Jacob Palo to severely beat Dr. Arthur Cutter over the head with a handgun before taking $20,000 in cash and a box of silver from a safe before driving off in the victim’s Cadillac.
Prosecutors say Palo, who is serving 20 to 40 years in state prison, stormed the home wearing a black ski mask after being told by Martin about the valuables inside the safe.
Martin told jurors he only knew Palo as a man named Chuck, a day laborer who he described as a “druggie” nobody would hire.
“A lot of people won’t give these guys chances,” Martin testified. “Unfortunately, I did.” Deputy County Attorney Tom Reid suggested to the jury on Thursday that Martin was financially suffering from two mortgages on his home, a lawsuit with Waste Management and being behind on rental payments on a garage space for his business.
Matin’s wife, Monica, responded to those claims by telling jurors her husband appeared to be doing well in his business, and that they had few troubles.
Martin denied he was in need of money at the time of the burglary, saying he reaped between $150,000 and $160,000 in business income that year.
Assistant County Attorney Michael Zaino exchanged heated words with Martin over a series of interviews he gave to state police prior to being arrested.
“You told state police, ‘I knew he was going to jack somebody up,’” Zaino said.
“Well, it wasn’t meant that way,” Martin replied, repeatedly telling jurors that his words were being taken out of context.
Zaino also confronted Martin with a series of text messages he responded to that night with Sherri Avnet, who was convicted for her role as a lookout during the burglary.
The text messages included responses from Martin’s cellphone that read: “Stop texting loose (sic) the phone throw it,” and “Wait where u are he will be there just stay hidden ok,” according to prosecutors.
Martin told the jury that he responded to messages from a panicked Avnet, but did not know what she was talking about. Martin said he was more focused on an ongoing argument with his wife.
“I really didn’t care,” Martin testified about messages he was receiving from Avnet. “I was texting with my wife. That’s what I was paying attention to. I was ready to flip a cog. I was going to snap.”
Zaino told jurors that Martin fired off responses to Avnet not asking who she was or what she was talking about, but by giving specific directions.
Zaino ended his questioning by playing a recording of a July 2011 interview Martin gave to two state police detectives. Martin told the detectives he knew that Palo had planned to “jack somebody up” over money that he was owed.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday morning.