NORTH ATTLEBORO — After holding up the Stop & Shop on Route 1 Thursday morning, the suspects in a string of area grocery store robberies allegedly drove to Rhode Island to buy $500 worth of fentanyl, police say.
Justin W. O’Connell, 36, and his girlfriend, Valerie Proulx, 41, both of Brockton, told police they were addicted to the potent synthetic painkiller, according to court documents made public Friday.
They face two counts of armed robbery while masked and were ordered held without bail Friday pending a dangerousness hearing Tuesday in Attleboro District Court.
The suspects allegedly told detectives Daniel Arrighi and Kevin McKeon and a Bellingham investigator that, in order to feed their habit, they robbed Shaw’s supermarket on Oct. 30 and a Stop & Shop in Bellingham three days later, Arrighi wrote in his report.
O’Connell also allegedly admitted they robbed a CVS in North Providence about 4 a.m. Thursday, about 4 ½ hours before hitting the North Attleboro Stop & Shop, according to the report.
Prosecutors say O’Connell went into the stores armed with a knife and used clothing to obscure his face while Proulx acted as the getaway driver.
“He told her where to go and she drove him to those locations,” Assistant District Attorney Kendall Poirier said during a court hearing Friday.
Fearing Proulx’s 2006 Acura RL was spotted leaving the Stop & Shop, the suspects wanted to hide the vehicle at a Cumberland storage facility before opting to have it towed, according to police.
“O’Connell informed this officer that he had a bad feeling that his vehicle was made and had contacted Sterry Street Towing,” Arrighi said in his report.
Indeed, a witness at Stop & Shop had taken photos of the car and its license plate, according to another police report, enabling police to trace it to Proulx.
In the meantime, the Sterry Street Towing driver — who had the suspects in his truck — learned the car on his flatbed was wanted in connection to the robbery, according to the report.
The driver was told the timing chain on the car was broken and the pair wanted the vehicle towed to Brockton, then O’Connell told him to stop at the Burger King on Route 24 North in Bridgewater, according to the report.
The driver “stated he was able to stall the pair for a while as MSP (Massachusetts State Police) arrived and took Proulx into custody,” according to a police report.
Before state police could apprehend him, O’Connell allegedly pulled a man out of his car and stole his vehicle then led state police on a brief chase before crashing the car in West Bridgewater, the report stated.
O’Connell also faces charges of carjacking, assault to rob, and assault and battery on a person 60 or older.
Also participating in the investigation were officers Craig Jones, Kevin Silvestri, John Grim and Julie Lowe and Sgt. Rob Curran.