HAVERHILL — A candidate for City Council has a history of criminal charges but says she has turned her life around and is stronger for it.
The charges against Dorothy “Dee” O’Neil range over a six-year period largely involving drinking during a time when she said her life was “unraveling” and she turned to alcohol.
According to court and police records, O’Neil’s legal troubles began in October 2011 when she was arrested twice — once for drunk driving and drug possession and another for domestic assault and battery. Her problems continued in 2012 when she was charged with assault and battery on a police officer, among other charges. Her last arrest, according to court records, was for possession of prescription pain medication.
According to court officials, all of the charges were either dismissed or she was placed on probation. O’Neill has never served jail time.
“I paid my price to the courts and now I’m paying it back,” she said. “The mistakes in my life have been crimes against me and my family and it all stemmed from alcohol.”
One incident, which led to O’Neil’s arrest in the parking lot of a restaurant in Methuen, resulted from an emotional crisis that she said nearly led her to harm herself.
“The stress in my work life and family life was just too much and when I drove up to the officer I had been drinking and was up all night,” she said. “The arresting officer ended up becoming a good friend of mine.”
Police said that on Oct. 21, 2011, O’Neil drove up to Methuen Police Sgt. Stephen Debs at about 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Jacksons Restaurant at 478 Lowell St. and asked him for directions.
O’Neil was placed under arrest by Methuen Police Officer Shaun Cronin after failing field sobriety tests. Police said they found what they believed was 30 grams of cocaine in the pickup truck, along with a prescription for anxiety medication. O’Neil said she was driving a pickup truck registered to the company her husband works for and that whatever drug was found in the truck was not hers.
O’Neil subsequently pleaded guilty to OUI and possession of a Class B drug, court officials said. She was ordered to serve two years probation, seek treatment and stay away from drugs and alcohol. A charge of trafficking cocaine was dismissed.
Also in October 2011, O’Neil was charged in Haverhill with domestic assault and battery.
A police report noted that on Oct. 15, 2011, O’Neil had slapped a family member in the face with the back of her hand during a heated argument. According to court officials, the charge was dismissed upon payment of $200 in court costs.
On July 7, 2012, police encountered O’Neil walking back to her North Broadway home after a visit to Oriental Garden, according to a report. Police said they drove her home and she became unruly so they arrested her.
Two days later, O’Neil was charged in Haverhill with disturbing the peace, assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and possession of a Class E drug. She subsequently pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. She admitted to sufficient facts for possession of a Class E drug. According to court officials, O’Neil was placed on probation for one year and was ordered to remain drug and alcohol free. The monthly probation fee was waived.
On March 30, 2016, O’Neil was charged in Lawrence District Court with possession of prescription pain medication. The case was eventually dismissed at the request of the probation department.
O’Neil said that since her past troubles, she has transformed her life and is helping others in the community — including through her nonprofit organization, 411 Cares, which she created in the spring of 2020.
“We provide an average of 80 bagged lunches a day, five days a week, to our homeless, veteran, and elderly community,” she said.
O’Neil and volunteers with her organization also assist people with addictions in locating treatment programs.
“We’re contributing to a stronger community with people who truly care and we want to create a more inclusive community, despite problems such as alcoholism and drug addiction,” she said.
To those who fault her for her past, she says, “when people shame people, it doesn’t make for a cohesive community.”