I Survived, Part III of X: Restoration

by David E. Shellenberger on December 12, 2017

[I]n detective stories virtue is always triumphant.”
     — Dorothy Sayers

I sat down in the living room. Within a minute, Eve came over to me from wherever she had hidden. I knew she would. She rubbed against my legs. I petted her and told her I loved her.

My mission had been to stay alive and keep the cats alive. Everything else was small. The damage to my home, my losses, my injuries — all were small; all are still small.

I secured Eve and Victoria in the extra bedroom upstairs and left them food and water. There was going to be a lot of activity in the house.

I threw out my bloody shirt. My right arm had bled from the injuries I sustained in the fall and the blows from the chair, and my wrist had bled from Victoria’s panicked scratching.

The criminals had stolen my cell phone and computer and wrecked both of my landline telephones. I had no means of communication.

At sunrise, about six o’clock, I went out on my front porch in the hope of seeing a neighbor. A few doors up the street, a car pulled into a driveway. I walked over to the house and introduced myself to my neighbor.

I pointed to where I lived and explained what had happened. I asked my neighbor whether I could borrow his cell phone. He obliged, and I called directory assistance, getting the number of a mutual friend of Jonathan’s and mine.

I apologized to our friend for waking her up. I told her that my home had been invaded, I had been robbed, and I needed help. I asked her to call Jonathan and see if he could come over. I explained I had borrowed a cell phone. There was no way for Jonathan to reach me.

Jonathan arrived within minutes. I looked haggard, and he looked shocked. I showed him the pile of glass in the living room.

Jonathan is not a stranger to the world of firearms. He informed me of the weapons he had brought in his car, in addition to his usual concealed pistol. I could choose which gun to borrow. I appreciated the idea, but this was not a good day for me to arm myself. I was exhausted and stressed.

Jonathan’s skills include electronics. He cobbled together the parts of the two damaged telephones so that I had a unit that was good enough for temporary use.

I called my insurance company, Amica. I described what had happened and explained the need to board up the back door and clean up the glass. I also called the bank that had issued my stolen credit cards; I canceled the accounts and ordered new cards.

We had breakfast, my first meal since lunch the day before.

A local television reporter called and asked whether I wanted to comment. I declined, remarking that doing any interviews at that time would only make matters worse.

Amica retained Paul Davis Restoration of Central Virginia to handle the emergency work. A crew of two men from the firm soon arrived. They were concerned and conscientious and did a great job.

Beyond smashing the glass in the back door and kicking a hole in a wall, the thugs had ripped a knob off the door to the laundry. They also had damaged another wall — and the floor — when they attacked me with the chair.

The men from Paul Davis advised that the firm could make all the needed repairs. I called the firm’s representative and initiated the process of getting the work done.

I called my locksmith; I had to have the locks changed because the criminals had stolen my keys. I also called the insurer of my cell phone, reported the loss, and arranged for the replacement.

I then called an aunt who has a landline telephone. Again, directory assistance was able to provide the number. I told my aunt about the crime, and she gave me my sister’s number.

I spoke with my sister, and she gave me the number for a cousin I also wanted to alert. I called my cousin and a couple of friends. Everyone, of course, was shocked and sympathetic.

The locksmith came within a couple of hours. The lead detective called several times, and Jonathan helped provide him with needed information.

Jonathan left for his office in the afternoon. He had told his colleagues that morning he would be helping me. When he arrived, his colleagues stood up and applauded. They knew he was helping me, and they had learned some of the details of the crime from news reports.

……..

I had met new neighbors, a nice couple, just a few weeks earlier. They had been away and returned that day. I was happy to see them and told them about the crime. They helped me that day and in the following days, and we have become good friends.

As I discuss below, from the beginning, I refused to be a victim. One way I responded to the crime was by helping the couple that day, and my other neighbors in the weeks that followed, enhance their security. I continue to share information on security with others and will offer ideas in Part IX.

By late afternoon, the police department was ready to release my car. Jonathan gave me a ride to the police garage. The forensics officer was friendly and sympathetic. She asked me to provide a DNA sample with a mouth swab to eliminate my DNA from any results. I had earlier given fingerprints, again for elimination. I drove home, glad to have my car back.

With the three criminals on the loose, I did not feel safe in the house after dark. The cats and I stayed with Jonathan and his family that night.

I put the cats in the room where we would stay. They are good-natured and did their best to adapt to the circumstances.

We had dinner. I was still winding down and stayed up late talking with Jonathan and his wife. We found the news reports of the crime on the computer. Here is an excerpt from one:

ACPD Searching for Suspects in Seminole Trail Armed Robbery

Officers are on the hunt for three men behind a double abduction and armed robbery in Albemarle County Monday, July 18. Surveillance video paints a dramatic picture of how parts of the night unfolded.

Detectives are looking for three masked men who abducted two people, stole an SUV and robbed a convenience store.

With a mask on and a gun out, a man held up the 7-Eleven on Seminole Trail near Hollymead. Police are asking for the community’s help in identifying the three suspects involved. …

Detectives are looking at whether or not this could be tied to a string of six other armed robberies across the region. At this point, police have not connected the robberies, but if they do the crimes are escalating.

I could barely walk up the stairs to our room; both of my knees had been injured. I petted the cats and got my first sleep in twenty-four hours.

In the morning, we had breakfast. Jonathan loaned me a metal baseball bat. In the following months, I carried it with me everywhere I went in my house and kept it on the nightstand when I slept. I planned to charge any intruder.

I went to the local supermarket. I was invisible. The crime was in the news; I was not.  

I have always been security-conscious. I had enhanced security when I bought the house. However, since I had expected to be able to sell it quickly, I had not taken all measures. Now I had to do so.

The detectives kept in contact with me, visiting and calling. Within a day or so, they came by and let me know they had found my computer, abandoned in the field behind my neighborhood. That was a relief. I thanked them for their diligence.

After the forensics unit checked the computer for fingerprints, the officer whom I had met when I retrieved my car called me and kindly dropped the computer off at my house. I was glad to have both my car and computer.

I took the computer to the local Apple distributor. A technician cleaned off the dirt from when the thugs had ditched it, plus the residue of fingerprint powder. More kindness.

The detectives also found the stolen bottle of wine. The wine was distinctive; I had ordered it online from a small producer in California. I had encouraged the criminals to select the bottle of wine from the refrigerator in the hope they would drink from it and leave both fingerprints and DNA evidence. However, they did not open the bottle.

I do not know whether the police were able to get fingerprints from the bottle, the house, or the car. I respected the confidentiality of the investigation.

A few days later, I saw the neighbor who had let me use his cell phone the morning after the crime. He apologized for having been cautious and not inviting me in. He had later seen the news reports of the crime. I explained I understood his caution — again, victims of crime look like criminals. I repeated my thanks for his having given me what I needed.

……..

Dealing with the crime occupied my days. I had to be present for workers making the repairs and security improvements. I replaced stolen and damaged items. And I communicated with the Amica claim representative and detectives.

The Amica representative was professional, concerned, and conscientious. With the recovery of my computer, the covered losses were below my high deductible. I nonetheless am thankful for Amica’s courtesy and goodwill and its help in having the emergency repairs effected.

In the evening, before darkness fell, the cats and I would leave for Jonathan’s home. I was grateful for his family’s hospitality. The cats and I stayed at a hotel for a few nights to give the family a break and the cats a little more space.

I stopped taking walks, and I stopped going to the supermarket at night. The criminals knew what I looked like, but I did not know what they looked like.

Three days after the crime, the right side of my chest was still in pain. I was concerned I might have suffered internal injuries, so I went to the emergency room at the local hospital. The staff diagnosed the problem as a rib contusion. My knees still ached, but I assumed they would heal over time.

……..

I created a framework.

I would not be a victim. The crime would not ruin my life.

If the crime had to happen, it was better that it happened to me. I was able to remain calm. I was able to remember details. I had long experience interacting with the authorities to help bring criminals to justice. Most importantly, I was able to endure the stress and the violence; others might have died.

Many have experienced worse. Many have not survived.

The crime would not deter me from pursuing my missions or goals.

And no good comes from evil, but we can do good despite the evil. I would help others.

……..

The week after the crime, I met with a senior detective at the police headquarters. I welcomed the opportunity to provide the narrative of the events in the calm of the office, ensuring the police had all of the details. In the middle of our discussion, I noticed my right knee was bleeding through my dress slacks, and apologized.

The detective was compassionate, respectful, and open. He explained there was a significant effort underway to identify and capture the participants in the crime spree. The police department was working closely with local, state, and federal authorities, including the FBI. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would prosecute the crimes. All of this was great news.

At the end of our meeting, the detective had the evidence clerk return the items from my car the police department had processed for fingerprints. These included the registration form. I had been worried about driving with neither a license — the replacement was in the mail — nor registration form. But the detective explained that the police department’s computer system had me listed as a crime victim.

The next night, the lead detective called me on my cell phone. I was at Jonathan’s house. The detective asked me to describe the stolen socks — the pair that one of the criminals had used as gloves. I was wearing a pair of the same type, so that was easy. He asked whether I could meet him to identify the socks; he and other law enforcement agents were in a parking lot nearby.

Jonathan drove me to the location. I introduced him to the lead detective and identified the socks. The brand, to my knowledge, was unavailable in the area. I had ordered them online. Like the bottle of wine, the socks’ distinctive quality gave them evidentiary value.

The detective advised me that the police would seek arrest warrants the next day. I asked whether the defendants would get bail. The answer, fortunately, was no.

……..

Late the next night, from Jonathan’s home, I checked for messages on my home telephone. The senior detective had left me a message: two suspects had been arrested, and I was welcome to call him for the details. I decided to hold off calling until the next morning rather than take his time that late.

I informed Jonathan and his family of the great news. The night of the crime was the worst night of my life. This night was one of the best. I was thrilled.

We looked online for news reports and found the stories. Here is an excerpt from one, as updated:

 ACPD: Suspects in Albemarle Co. Robbery Arrested

New details are emerging about a pair of arrests made Friday, July 29, in connection with a home invasion, two abductions and an armed robbery in Albemarle County. The case may also have ties to similar crimes in Greene County.

The U.S. Marshals Service helped make the arrest around 6 p.m. Friday night. Albemarle County police say it happened after a short foot chase in the 2100 block of Angus Road in Charlottesville.

……..

The police commonly solve crimes through receiving information from sources with knowledge. Based on a later public statement by the authorities, this apparently is what happened in the case of the crimes against me.

Why did the criminals choose my home to invade? As I hypothesized from the beginning, the reason was simply that my house was high-end and visible from the road, a nice home to rob. One of the criminals had an acquaintance in the area and had noticed it.

Criminals can attack any home — and any of us. And crime is often random. Each of us has to take steps to seek safety.

……..

In the morning, I thanked Jonathan and his family for all of their kindness. The police had captured two of the three criminals, and I had made progress in strengthening my home’s security. Thus, the cats and I would be able to spend our nights at home again.

When we got home, I called the detective. I expressed my appreciation for the arrests and my relief the agents were not harmed.

And the court indeed denied the defendants bail. Here is an excerpt from a news report. Technically, bail is the pre-trial release of defendants, while a bond is intended to ensure the defendant’s return for proceedings.

 7-Eleven Robbery Suspects Denied Bond

Two men charged in a string of robberies and abductions in Albemarle County will stay behind bars for now.

Kentavia Tyree Jones and Jaquarius Daquan Johnson, both 18 years old, appeared in Albemarle General District Court Monday, August 1, and were both denied bond. …

……..

I identified the Facebook page of one of the suspects, maintained under his pseudonym, and printed out weeks of posts. I knew the suspect’s attorney would soon have the posts deleted. The posts suggested the suspect’s aspiration to be a gangster. Here is an excerpt from one that appeared just hours before the crime: “Pop.pop.pop.”

Crime is for losers; it is stupid as well as immoral. Criminals spend much of their lives in prison, where they cannot prey on us. Too often, the imprisonment comes much later than warranted.

……..

Friends and relatives asked me whether I would have to testify against the suspects. I explained I would be happy to do so. The first step, however, was to testify before the grand jury.

Under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, the federal government brings felony charges through an indictment returned by a grand jury. Prosecutors present evidence to the grand jury, which determines whether there is probable cause to believe that one or more persons committed a crime.

Federal grand juries are made up of between 16 and 23 jurors. The proceedings are secret. The only people present are the jurors, prosecutors, individual witnesses, and a court reporter or operator of a recording device.

I was scheduled to testify on August 10th. Before then, the senior detective called me, and he and his colleague delivered a subpoena. The service was necessary to meet formal requirements. As always, the detectives were friendly and courteous.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney who was responsible for presenting my testimony called the afternoon before the proceeding. I advised him that cooperating with the authorities in the pursuit of justice was of the highest importance to me. I was eager to testify and glad to arrive early to prepare.

I met with the AUSA and his colleague for an hour before the proceeding the next morning. We reviewed the facts and exhibits. I liked both of the AUSAs; they are smart, skilled, professional, and compassionate.

The two detectives who served the subpoena were also present. I again expressed my appreciation to them for the police department’s work on the case and the kindness of all the department’s personnel with whom I had been in contact.

In my many years of practicing law, I had presented the testimony of countless witnesses. I also had done a lot of public speaking. This included testifying before a hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations the year I led the national effort to expose fraud in the day trading industry. I was comfortable testifying.

The AUSA advised me I was the first witness in the case. He explained that the jurors were not used to hearing about violent crimes and would be shocked.

……..

The AUSA had me describe what happened and identify the exhibits displayed on a screen. The photos included those of the three crime scenes — my home, the bank, and the 7-Eleven. There were also photos of my car, my computer, and the other stolen property the police had recovered.

As I testified, I noticed that one woman covered her mouth with her hand. Another covered her whole face. I wondered why. After a few minutes, I realized the jurors were not just shocked — they were horrified. They gasped as I described the series of events.

I had told the story to the authorities, a handful of friends, and a few relatives. By now, the story was normal to me. I had not realized the full effect it would have on the jurors.

People understand that a home invasion is horrible. They imagine what it would be like if it happened to them. They fear the danger. They feel the horror.

Two portions of my testimony were emotional for me. One involved my parents, the other the cats.

I described how one of the suspects brandished a knife from the case on the kitchen counter. I explained that my late parents had given me the case with a set of kitchen knives decades ago.

I have missed my parents every day since they passed away. After the crime, I wished they were still alive, living in their home on Cape Cod, the home on the quiet pond. When we suffer, we wish for love, for shelter, for peace.

I identified a photograph of evidence in the house. I explained that the investigator had called my attention to the item as I tried to secure the cats in the middle of the night.

I told the jurors, “My mission that night was to stay alive and keep the cats alive.”

Our pets are our children. They are vulnerable, always dependent on us. The threat to the cats was the worst part of the experience. It is still the worst.

At the end of my testimony, the AUSA and the grand jury thanked me. I thanked them too. The AUSA walked me out to the waiting room. He was appreciative and gracious. We had successfully conveyed the facts, the horrific facts.

I told the AUSA I knew my testimony had disturbed the jurors. I asked him to let them know I was fine. I was recovering from my injuries, helping my neighbors, and living my life. I did not want the jurors to suffer because of what I had suffered.

I spoke with the two detectives and thanked them for being with us. I headed back to my house — drained.

……..

The police had alerted me that the third suspect, in Greene County, would soon be arrested. The senior detective called me that afternoon to let me know the authorities had successfully executed the arrest. Again, I expressed my gratitude for the arrest and my relief no agents were harmed.

I was pleased that all three suspects were behind bars. Here is an excerpt from one of the news reports:

Greene County man arrested for armed robbery

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office reports a 19-year-old man has been arrested for an armed robbery at the Stanardsville Domino’s.

Terence Tyree, Jr. of Greene County is charged with robbery, malicious bodily injury, and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The sheriff’s office worked with the Albemarle County Police Department and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force to investigate the July 7 incident.

Officials are investigating several incidents in the two counties that could be connected.

……..

A leader in our neighborhood organized a meeting with a crime prevention officer. We held the meeting on August 16 at the home of a neighbor. The officer was friendly and helpful.

The officer invited me to provide the details of the crime. I did this and described the security improvements I had made. The officer suggested ways to deter crime in the neighborhood and recommended the same products I used.

We also discussed the idea of being armed. I encouraged neighbors to consider the principle that we have the right to defend our lives and the lives of others.

A neighbor asked me the cost of one enhancement. My response was that the cost did not matter. No one should go through what I went through.

……..

Part I
Part II

Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

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