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LeRay woman recounts how burglars smashed open window, stole Jeep on Saturday


FELTS MILLS — A suspicious noise just before 3 a.m. Saturday woke Catherine F. Ferran, who peered through her upstairs bedroom window and saw a pair of tall, wiry-looking men walking near her garage.

They were circling to the front of her LeRay home at 27468 Route 3, so she walked to the upstairs window facing the front yard. No one was visible, but the outdoor garage light was set off by its motion detector.

“Then I heard the sound of glass crashing,” said Ms. Ferran, 61, who grabbed her cellphone, dialed 911 and hid in her bedroom closet. “I was shocked.”

She later learned the ear-splitting crash was caused by a large rock hurled through the living room window, thrown hard enough to punch a hole in the wall about 12 feet away. While she was in the closet talking quietly with the operator, the burglars grabbed her car keys from the kitchen counter and stole her brown 2005 Jeep Cherokee from the garage.

That was what she learned after waiting about 15 minutes for Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies to arrive. The deputies, who are conducting an investigation, later found the Jeep abandoned about four miles away on the shoulder of Route 3 near Cemetery Road. They also discovered the perpetrators appear to have broken into a motor home and garage at a residence across the street before stealing the Jeep.

At first, deputies “asked me if I had a car in the garage and found out about the Jeep,” said Ms. Ferran, who stayed on the phone in the closet until police arrived. “One of the policemen then said, ‘I passed that Jeep coming here,’ and he noticed it was going slow. They passed the perpetrators on the way here.”

The only item stolen from the home, where Ms. Ferran lives alone, was a 17-inch television in her kitchen. That detail struck her as odd. Left undisturbed in the living room, where the glass was shattered, was her 32-inch television, a laptop computer and an Amazon Kindle. Her purse was left hanging on the kitchen doorknob.

“I’m not a person who wants to live in fear, but I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it,” said Ms. Ferran, who has lived in the house for two years. “I’m now looking at getting a security system.”

The burglars likely were intoxicated when they stole the Jeep, because beer cases in the refrigerator of a two-stall garage at 27467 Route 3 were raided, said Noel D. Townsend Jr., owner of that residence. Mr. Townsend, who works the third shift as a security guard at Samaritan Summit Village, wasn’t home when the burglars pried open the garage window to break in; his wife, Linda M., never heard a noise during the night.

“They helped themselves to the beer that was in the (garage) refrigerator,” he said, adding that no vehicles were present. “They took an 18-pack of Coors Light, and there were only about two bottles left from a full pack of Budweiser. They also drank my wife’s daiquiri beer cans, which were found in the yard.”

Mrs. Townsend added, “To me it was really funny, because he had his gun chest sitting there with a rifle and a knife, and all they took was just an American flag and tiki lights.”

A mess was made inside the couple’s 31-foot motor home, which was unlocked. Pillows and sheets were tossed onto the floor, along with papers inside the glove box. The only missing item was the keys; the perpetrators couldn’t start the motor home, Mr. Townsend said, because its battery is dead.

The Townsends, who have lived here 16 years, said they now plan to install an alarm system and outdoor lighting.

“I’m hoping they’re caught,” said Mr. Townsend, 60. “But if they’re not, sooner or later someone who is drunk is going to spill their guts.”

Deputy Shaun D. Cuddeback said Sunday night that investigators have identified potential suspects. DNA and fingerprint evidence will be processed in the next six to eight weeks.

“We do have some information and people we’re investigating, but nothing that we can accuse anyone of,” he said. “We’re really hoping for the public’s help on this one.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the department at 786-2601.

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