Strict parking laws can be a thorn in the side of motorists in Salem, but it was partly those regulations that helped police nab a suspect on Tuesday and connect him to two alleged carjackings in the area over the last three days.
Johan M. Morales, 37, of 14 Heritage Drive, Salem, is accused of forcibly stealing two tire service vehicles from separate New Hampshire companies by assaulting the drivers with pepper spray. He was ordered held without bail on Wednesday in Salem District Court.
According to court records, Salem police responded to a report of a carjacking on Goodhue Street just after 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, where a man related that he had his company truck stolen after being maced and assaulted. He was treated at the scene for injuries to his face and torso.
The victim had been sent to Salem to replace a pair of tires and sell two more to a customer going by the name of "Joe."
The truck, a 1988 GMC Sierra, was found a short time later parked on Federal Street, missing four Michelin Tires valued at $600 each.
While waiting for a tow truck to haul the vehicle in for evidence, the officer who found it recalled being sent last week to Colby Street on a report of an illegally parked vehicle. She made contact with the driver of the vehicle, Morales, who she described as fitting the description of the assailant given by the victim.
Additionally, dispatch reported to officers that on Sunday afternoon, another parking complaint on Colby Street turned up a 2000 Chevy van - belonging to a different tire service company in New Hampshire - which had been reported stolen out of Peabody earlier in the day.
Peabody police confirmed that the van in question was also taken during a carjacking involving pepper spray, and that it contained tires and tools at the time.
Police arrested Morales a short time later at his residence - where they seized a number of tires and tools - after the Salem victim positively identified Morales as the assailant out of a picture lineup.
According to police, Morales later confessed to both carjackings during interviews with Salem and Peabody investigators.
Morales faces a charge of armed carjacking, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous with a dangerous weapon, four counts of larceny of property over $250, larceny of a motor vehicle, armed robbery, and receiving stolen property over $250 in connection with the incident in Salem.
According to police officials, he will answer to separate charges for the carjacking in Peabody at Peabody District Court. Court officials say he has not been formally charged in that case yet.
Morales is due back in Salem District Court on September 5.
Ryan Mooney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.