Neighbors’ vigilance helps nab home invader

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published December 5, 2012

WARREN — Investigators don’t really know what a 40-year-old man was doing when he allegedly followed two sisters home from school last month.

It is alleged he arrived at their family’s home on Palomino, south of 13 Mile and east of Hoover, entered a locked backyard, went into the home’s sunroom, and then knocked on an interior door while the girls, ages 12 and 8, were alone inside.

Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green said, because of the diligence of neighbors, the reaction of the girls and a quick police response, no one may ever know what the man was really up to.

The suspect now faces a third-degree home invasion charge after he was taken into custody at about 1 p.m. Nov. 20. He reportedly told detectives he wanted to ride his dirt bike into the Edison Corridor, and that he went to the home in search of a point of entry to the grassy stretch of land running north and south between Hoover and Schoenherr.

“We can’t get into this guy’s mind and validate his story, or discount it, either,” Green said. “At the same time, his actions rose to the level of what we believe was a crime.”

Specifically, police said he broke the law when he allegedly entered the home of a family he did not know.

Green said a neighbor told police he observed the same man acting suspiciously before that at a nearby bus stop. The neighbor was reportedly so concerned that the suspect was “paying particular attention” to the younger girl as she walked from the bus stop that he asked the child if she needed a ride home.

Another neighbor called 911 a short time later, after the suspect allegedly went to the girls’ house, entered the backyard and walked into the sunroom.

Frightened by the stranger at her patio door, the older girl reportedly called her mother, and then phoned the neighbor across the street when she couldn’t reach her mom.

The neighbor told the girls to run out the front door and to her home across the street.

She reportedly called police as she watched the man in the girls’ backyard. The girls’ mother rushed home from work, and officers quickly arrived to arrest the man.

“There’s a combination of things that happened here that’s a good lesson for people to learn,” Green said. “It shows if you’re vigilant, if you pay attention to things and you plan for if something goes wrong, they know what to do. If all of those things fall into place, you avoid disastrous results.

“Everything that should have happened to protect them from a bad guy happened,” Green added. “A neighbor was paying enough attention to what’s going on. He acted on what he thought wasn’t looking right, and then you have the girls doing the right thing when he tried to get in their house. The other neighbor does the right thing, the police immediately respond and the guy is caught at the scene. It makes for a good story that could have been a bad one.”

The suspect later denied entering the home, according to a police report. He reportedly told a detective that another person had said someone in the neighborhood was “cool,” and that neighbor would supposedly let him into the Edison property through their gate.

Police said the gate leading into the backyard of the girls’ home was locked, and that the home’s gate to the Edison property was closed.

According to a police report, officers were advised that a next-door neighbor’s gate was unlocked, and that their gate to the Edison property was open.

The man also allegedly told a detective he was at the bus stop where the girls were, but that he only asked people if his motorcycle was too loud.

According to Michigan law, home invasion in the third degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years, a fine of not more than $2,000, or both.