Spare tire in backseat leads to arrest of robbery suspect hidden in trunk

Great Barrington police arrest robbery suspect who was fleeing in his own trunk

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Police Sgt. Adam J. Carlotto was suspicious when he saw the spare tire in the back seat.

It was about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, and the blizzard was still raging, when Carlotto spotted the 2004 Audi that belonged to Francis S. Taikowski, a suspect in last week's robbery of the Mobil Xtra Mart.

He followed the car as it headed south on Main Street and then turned onto Maple Avenue (Route 23), according to Carlotto's report. A few yards down the road, he activated his lights and pulled over the car, which appeared to have two occupants.

Carlotto approached the vehicle, which was driven by Michael L. Thorpe Jr. He recognized the passenger to be Jeremy Babcock.

He ordered Thorpe out of the vehicle and asked him several times whether there was anyone else besides Babcock in the vehicle. Thorpe said no.

At that point, Officer Jason LaForest arrived, and Thorpe was handcuffed.

Carlotto turned his attention to Babcock and ordered him out of the vehicle, at gunpoint. Babcock also was cuffed.

Upon questioning, he too, denied there was anyone else in the car. At this point, Police Chief William R. Walsh arrived.

As Carlotto noted in his report, it has been his experience that if a spare tire is not in a vehicle's trunk, it usually indicates something else is in there.

So he removed the rear seat cushion of the Audi and, "a human leg in dungarees was visible," he wrote in his report.

The leg belonged to Taikowski, who was ordered out of the vehicle and arrested.

Later, at the Great Barrington Police station, Thorpe told police Taikowski had asked for a ride to Connecticut. He told Officer Jonathan Finnerty that he did not know why Taikowski opted to hide in the trunk, other than Taikowski did not have a valid license and Thorpe did.

When Finnerty expressed extreme skepticism, Thorpe conceded Taikowski told him he had robbed the Xtra Mart, adding, "The clerk recognized me; I'm screwed."

Taikowski is accused of walking into the South Main Street store about 3 a.m. Monday wearing a ski mask. With his hand inside a gym bag to appear armed, he allegedly pressed something against the clerk's side that felt like a handgun and demanded money.

The clerk said she recognized the man, who had been a regular customer, by the curly red hair sticking out of the eye holes in the mask.

Taikowski, of Warrensburg, N.Y., has pleaded not guilty to charges of armed and masked robbery, assault to commit armed robbery and larceny under $250. He is being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing Monday in Southern Berkshire District Court.

Thorpe, Jr., 35, of Rosseter Street, Great Barrington, is charged with being an accessory after the fact. Babcock, 28, of Park Street, Housatonic, is being charged with intimidation of a witness. Both were arraigned on Thursday and had not guilty pleas entered on their behalf.

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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