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    Suspect in Methuen break-ins caught in act, police say

    A suspect in a string of burglaries in Methuen is in custody after a man caught him in the act and, with the help of a friend, pinned him to the ground until police arrived, Methuen police said.

    Wilfredo Rivera, 45, was arraigned in Lawrence District Court Monday, said Lieutenant Michael Pappalardo of the Methuen police.

    The incident occurred when Jason Thomas stopped at his father-in-law’s house to drop something off Friday night and noticed that the side door to the garage was open, he said in an interview. He then went into the home and saw a man entering the kitchen. Thomas said he asked the man what he was ­doing in the house, and the suspect responded that he was looking for his lawyer.


    When Thomas, 50, of Windham, N.H., attempted to call 911 using his cellphone, the man attacked him, he said.

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    “Once he came at me, it was do or die,” Thomas said. “At first, I didn’t know if there was a weapon or if there was anyone else in the house.”

    His wife and another couple were waiting in the car, Thomas said, but they did not hear any of the fighting.

    “He was very strong,’’ said Thomas. “We went at it for a while. I figured the only way it would end was if I could get to a phone or get outside.”

    When he had the chance, Thomas dragged the man out into the garage.


    His friend, who was waiting in the car, jumped into the brawl, called 911, and helped Thomas hold the intruder down until police arrived, Thomas said.

    Other than a black eye, Thomas said he is OK.

    Rivera had been staying in a basement apartment in Methuen, and is a suspect in a string of neighborhood burglaries, Pappalardo said. The burglaries have occurred for about a week and the suspect had been observed by a homeowner at least once, Pappalardo said.

    Rivera is charged with breaking and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony, intimidation of a witness, assault and battery, willful and malicious damage to personal property, attempt to commit a crime, unarmed burglary, and assault on an occupant, Pappalardo said.

    Rivera is being held on $50,000 bond or $5,000 cash bail on one charge of breaking and entering and $100,000 bond or $10,000 cash bail on another charge of breaking and entering.

    Melissa Werthmann
    can be reached at melissa.