Home » Back in time to Sept. 15, 1993

Back in time to Sept. 15, 1993

As I sit down to write this column, Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement officials have taken convicted killer Danelo Cavalcante back into custody after a 13-day manhunt to locate the man who escaped a Philadelphia-area prison late last month.

Admittedly, a convicted killer on the loose in Pennsylvania has little to do with Marblehead. But, 30 years ago this week, the town had its own, much smaller, manhunt — for a man The Daily Evening Item described as a “daring cat burglar.”

Kenneth Testa, 27, was arrested as he crossed the street in Somerville on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 1993 after escaping police earlier in the week, triggering a widespread search for the man officials believed was responsible for more than 100 home break-ins in the region. Testa was nearly taken into custody Tuesday morning at a roadblock on Humphrey Street, but managed to elude police by leaping out the window of an MBTA bus.

Before he was seen on the bus, Testa attempted to break into a pair of homes on Beacon Street around 11:30 p.m. Monday, but was seen peering into the window of one home and scared off by an alarm at another. While police searched for him on Beacon Street, Testa broke into the home of Dan and Linda Wiggin on nearby Gingerbread Hill. Linda Wiggin awoke to find Testa walking out of her bedroom closet, which had a window Testa used to get into the home.

Linda Wiggin said Testa told her he had a gun and demanded keys to the family car. He fled the home with $500 after ordering Linda Wiggin to tie up her husband with a telephone cord. She did not do so, and Dan Wiggin said he saw Testa run away from the home without attempting to steal the car.

“I pulled the covers over my head,” said Linda Wiggin. “It’s just an awful feeling to have someone in your bedroom. You feel violated.”

A car stolen from a break-in in Andover Monday was recovered on Beacon Street in Marblehead.

Testa was suspected of breaking into more than 40 homes in Marblehead over an eight-week period. Authorities also believed he broke into homes in Lynn, Salem, and Swampscott. Andover police said Testa broke into nine homes there Monday morning, and police in Norwell, Beverly, and Gloucester said they believed he was responsible for break-ins in their communities.

After he was spotted on Gingerbread Hill, a massive police presence descended on the area, and roadblocks were set up at Tedesco Road and Humphrey Street and on Atlantic Avenue near the Swampscott line. When a Salem police officer boarded an MBTA bus at the Humphrey Street roadblock shortly before midnight, Testa jumped out the bus window and fled the area on foot. He managed to elude a search that stretched into 4:30 a.m. the following morning.

Police said Testa had a long criminal history, including a robbery conviction in Boston Municipal Court. He had been released from jail several months prior to the string of break-ins. Testa was also described as a heavy heroin user, and had previous drug possession offenses.

Typically, Testa looked to steal money from wallets and pocketbooks left out in the open in homes he forced his way into, and often took other valuables that were easy to carry away.

Testa ultimately pled guilty to several indictments for armed robbery and other crimes in Essex County, and while serving out those sentences, pled guilty to five indictments in Plymouth County.