Man allegedly steals $100K worth of items from Northampton, South Deerfield businesses

The Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton.

The Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton. FILE PHOTO

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 04-23-2024 7:08 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A South Hadley man pleaded not guilty in Hampshire County Superior Court on Monday to charges stemming from thefts from businesses in Northampton and South Deerfield.

Steven Skea, 64, is accused of breaking into two businesses and making off with items valued at more than $100,000, on Aug. 20 and Oct. 28, 2023.

He is charged in a criminal complaint with two counts of breaking and entering in the nighttime, two counts of larceny from a building and unlawful possession of a firearm without a permit.

At the request of Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber, Judge Karen Goodwin set the next court hearing date for May 16 for a possible change of plea.

Skea is charged with breaking into a business at 11 Bridge St. in Northampton on Aug. 20 and stealing the property of The Collector Galleries, according to the district attorney’s complaint.

He was arraigned in Greenfield District Court in November following his arrest in connection with the Oct. 28 burglary in South Deerfield. He was charged with breaking and entering and larceny over $1,200, among other counts, and was ordered held on $15,000 bail by Judge William Mazanec III.

The principal victim in the South Deerfield case, Skip Traverse of Hatfield, said he lost jewelry valued at $40,000 to $50,000 in the October break-in at Whitney Hill at the Gables on Routes 5 and 10.

“I buy and sell things to supplement my retirement,” Traverse said. He said almost all the items taken that night were his, all gold jewelry.

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He praised the actions of the Deerfield Police Department, particularly Sgt. Jennifer Bartak, for taking the time to check and follow up on a suspicious vehicle parked across the road from Whitney Hill on what turned out to be the night of the robbery.

As a result, police were able to identify Skea as a suspect and he was arrested less than two weeks later.

Police were able to recover some of the stolen jewelry, which Traverse estimates to be 15-20% of his losses. Webber told the court Monday that the items identified as stolen can soon be returned to the victims.

Traverse said police also seized $9,000 in cash from the suspect. He said he’s been hoping for some restitution for the property he has lost, but the DA’s office has told him there’s no mechanism that allows for such a step.

He said he was unable to insure his jewelry because the store had no alarm system.

Judge Goodwin ordered Skea held without bail until the May 16 hearing. Skea is represented by defense attorneys Alfred P. Chamberland of Easthampton and William Lane of Greenfield.

James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.