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Co- worker testifies suspended police chief's wife had bruises, swollen lip on the day after alleged assault

Posted by Tom Coakley  June 24, 2013 01:32 PM

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Claire Coen was settling into her office routine at TJX corporate headquarters in Framingham on the morning of June 13 last year when she received a frantic call from her friend and coworker Andrea LaCroix.

LaCroix, who was also at TJX, wanted to see her immediately.

"She said, 'Come here right away, I need you,'" Coen testified Monday in Concord District Court on the third day in the trial of suspended Waltham police Chief Thomas LaCroix, Andrea's husband, who is charged with assaulting Andrea and Shannon Policano, one of her friends in Maynard on June 12 last year.

Two police officers from Maynard and one from Waltham, who works with the department's stress unit, also testified Monday, talking about how LaCroix tried to keep from being taken into custody June 14 last year, causing the Maynard officers to struggle to get him in handcuffs and into the back of a cruiser.

"He said, 'Come on guys, is this necessary,' and I stated that yes, it was necessary," said Maynard police Det.Paul Maria.

Earlier, Coen testified that Andrea LaCroix was distraught on June 13 last year. She was crying and walking slowly as she ushered Coen into a company conference room, where she lifted up her pant legs and rolled up her sweater sleeves to show several bruises, and complained to Coen of back pain.

"She pointed out her lip was swollen, and I saw swelling in her arms and legs," Coen testified before a jury of eight men and one woman. "She had her head down and was wearing a lot of makeup, and she had her hair in her face more than usual."

Coen didn't mention whether Andrea LaCroix told her who inflicted the bruises and other injuries on her.

But in testimony Friday, Policano said that Andrea LaCroix had arrived at her house on June 12 with a bloody and swollen lip and had told her: "‘Tom just beat the [expletive] out of me,”

Policano also testified that when she and Andrea went to the LaCroix home that night to retrieve Andrea's cell phone and some clothes, Thomas LaCrox grabbed his wife and slammed her head into a the kitchen counter. He then lunged at Policano causing her to stumble backwards down some stairs.

Policano's testimony came after Thomas LaCroix's lawyer Thomas Drechsler told the court that Andrea LaCroix will testify in her husband's defense.

In a brief interview last week, Andrea confirmed that that is her intention, saying: "My husband is not guilty."

Drechsler has argued that the description by Policano and others of what occurred on June 12 last year has been exaggerated and made into town gossip.

On Monday, Coen testified that during their conversation, Andrea LaCroix's cell phone rang continuously. Sometimes she would silence it; other times she would answer it "exasperated and upset," she said.

Coen said LaCroix "agreed" to go to Newton-Wellesley Hospital with her, and they walked into the emergency room around 10:30 a.m., where LaCroix changed into a hospital frock and showed doctors her back.

However, in cross examining Coen, defense lawyer Drechsler read from medical records that showed that, other than "tenderness" in Andrea's tailbone, doctors and nurses reported Andrea was physically fine, including her mouth and extremities.

"I did not see them examine her arms or legs," Coen said, noting she was with LaCroix during the whole exam except for an x-ray.

Phone records presented Monday by prosecutor Suzanne Kontz showed that Thomas LaCroix called his wife's cell or work number several times during the day - in the morning, most calls were only two or three minutes apart - and also placed over a half-dozen calls to Coen, who noted she was Andrea's close friend for about seven years and was friendly with her husband as well.

Coen said during those calls June 13, the then-chief of police told her: "It's not my fault she weighs what she does and flies across the room." Coen said LaCroix also said over the phone, "I don't know my own strength" and "She lost so much weight that when I pick her up and push her she goes 15 feet in the air."

LaCroix was arrested by Maynard police June 14 of last year and charged with assault. He was placed on paid administrative leave from the Waltham department.

He has pleaded not guilty and is free but wears a an ankle monitoring bracelet to make sure he doesn’t go near witnesses in the case.

At LaCroix's home at the time of his arrest were two Maynard officers and a Waltham lieutenant from the department's stress unit.

The Maynard police officers testified Monday that they struggled to get the police chief into handcuffs and the back of their cruiser as he put up a physical protest.

LaCroix pleaded with the officers not to arrest him on his front lawn, and threw a set of keys he held in his hand on top of the Waltham police lieutenant's car scratching the car, said Maynard Police Sgt. Michael Noble.

Maria, the lead detective on the LaCroix case, said the police chief began to become red in the face, and "grabbed the passenger's side mirror" of Waltham Lt. Antonio Nele's black Lexus, squeezing it so hard "it made a plastic cracking sound," Maria said.

Both Noble and Maria said LaCroix "headbutted" a car in the driveway, and that he tensed up and became upset when officers tried to handcuff him.

Noble also said as officers tried to guide LaCroix into the back of a police car, he threw a knee up into the door to try and stop from entering the car.

Officers said no damage was done to any of the vehicles, and that LaCroix appeared to be intoxicated.

Nele, who helps officers sort through personal issues, testified Monday he saw LaCroix throw the keys, grab the car's mirror, and hit his head on the window of a Jeep that sat in the home's driveway.

During Nele's testimony, LaCroix frowned and stared at the lieutenant on the witness stand.

Because LaCroix has been on paid administrative leave he has continued to collect his $146,305 annual salary. Last year, he collected $182,358 in salary and other benefits, including a $16,814 longevity bonus he received after he was arrested, according to city payroll records.

Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy previously told the Globe that the suspended chief could lose his job if he is found guilty on the criminal charges, as well as if the city finds that his conduct was in violation of Police Department rules.

However, McCarthy said, no matter what the verdict is in the criminal case, the city must conduct an independent investigation in order to dismiss LaCroix from the force, and the investigation can be completed only after the trial.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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