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Detectives testify that Danbury man conspired to rob Deerfield veternarian

Union Leader Correspondent

July 31. 2013 8:35PM
Christopher Martin, 40, of Danbury is on trial for conspiracy to commit burglary and other charges for his alleged role in a June 2011 home invasion in Deerfield. (JAMES A. KIMBLE PHOTO)

BRENTWOOD — A state police detective testified Wednesday that a plumber charged with planning a home invasion in Deerfield, targeting $20,000 in cash, at first denied having knowledge about the crime and then admitted he provided driving directions to the house.

Christopher Martin, 40, of Danbury told a pair of state police detectives that he gave handwritten directions to Jacob Palo, 37, a Manchester man serving a 20- to 40-year state prison sentence for his role in the case.“(He said) the paper was his. The directions were written by him, but the diagram was not drawn by him,” state police Detective Lt. John Marasco testified during Martin’s second day of trial on charges of conspiracy to commit burglary and being an accomplice to the break-in.

Marasco and state police Sgt. Robert Estabrook — now retired — interviewed Martin after the June 29, 2011, home invasion. Dr. Arthur Cutter was severely beaten inside his Deerfield home by Palo, who fled in the veterinarian’s Cadillac after retrieving thousands of dollars and other valuables. Palo set off a county-wide manhunt that ended with him crashing another stolen car into an Epping police cruiser in Fremont the morning after the heist.

Martin told state police that he gave the instructions to Palo because “he wanted to know a vet I use,” according to Marasco.

Estabrook confronted Martin about the text messages he exchanged with Sherri Avnet, 34, formerly of Manchester, on the night of the burglary.

Those texts included ones from Martin’s phone number that warned Avnet to hide from police and to toss her phone, according to court testimony.

Avnet was a lookout and carried two backpacks that contained driving directions and a hand-drawn map of the home’s layout and a variety of burglary tools.

She is serving a two- to seven-year prison sentence for her role in the case.Martin eventually acknowledged to investigators that he gave Palo and Avnet a ride in his van the night of the burglary, saying “that Mr. Palo was going to jack somebody up for some money he was owed.”

Prosecutors argued that Palo and Avnet heard of Cutter. But Martin knew the layout to Cutter’s house and about the valuables inside because he did plumbing work at the home. Avnet testified on Tuesday that Palo and Martin planned the burglary with the understanding that Martin would get a cut of the money.

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