An experience we'll never forget

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On the afternoon of Feb. 4, I rushed home from work to change clothes, grab my I-pod and hit the Greenway Trail. When I got there, I parked the car in the garage and rushed inside. I thought it was a little odd that my I-pod wasn't on the kitchen island where I left it that morning, but not worrying too much, I got all the way into the bedroom before I realized something was really, really wrong. The window in that room was wide open, the drawers to my jewelry box were lying empty on the floor and our flat screen TV was gone. I then turned around and went into our home office where I found papers tossed all over the floor and drawers and cabinet doors wide open. It wasn't until then that I realized our home had been burglarized and I thought to call 911.

After being told to exit the house immediately, I sat outside on our front porch, clutching my cell phone and waiting for the police and Mike to arrive. It's hard to adequately describe the feelings of fear and violation I felt as I imagined strangers sifting through our belongings. Those of you who have been victims of burglary know exactly how I felt, but until you've been through it, it's hard to truly grasp the strength of the feelings of anger and fear that flood your mind all at once. In the hours that followed, we discovered more and more items missing - a camera, a pair of my son's jeans, a video recorder. But for me, the worst part was the memories they stole. A simple gold necklace Mike gave me after Ryan was born, a ring I received on our 10th anniversary, my sorority pin and a pair of sparkly earrings, which represented the first gift my son Nick bought me with his own money. All of these items and many more, regardless of their value, were dumped into a bucket and taken from my home to be traded for quick cash.

The thought of strangers wandering through our home, looking in our closets and touching our belongings continued to haunt our thoughts. We wondered who could have done this to us? Was it someone we knew? Within just a week, we had our answers. One of the perpetrators turned out to be a young man who had been a guest in our home on a few occasions several years back - someone we were trying to help during a tough time in his young life. We struggled with this betrayal for awhile, but in the end, we realized it wasn't really personal. It was drugs that fueled our burglary. The two young men who admitted their involvement in our burglary are drug addicts who steal to support a habit that is destroying their lives. Sadly, the young man we tried to help is now serving a six-year sentence in prison. He was offered a year of intensive drug treatment but chose the six-year sentence instead. He'll most likely get out sooner that way, but when he does get out, my bet is he'll fall right back into a life of crime because of his addiction.

With time, I have begun feeling safe again in my own home. Mike bolstered our security system and we no longer leave doors unlocked or leave the home without setting the alarm. I also realized that most possessions, no matter how treasured, can be replaced while people cannot. As I mentioned earlier in this editorial, the Cassville Police Department and Barry County Sheriff's Department worked together to make some arrests in our case, which went a long way toward restoring our peace of mind. Knowing that the men who burglarized our home were behind bars allowed me to sleep easier. Mike and I both appreciated the efforts of our local law enforcement officers and Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox, who all handled our case with professionalism and concern for our wellbeing.

In particular, I want to thank Barry County Sheriff's Department Investigators Doug Henry and Rob Evenson as well as Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly. Even with arrests and convictions in place, these dedicated men did not forget our case or the items that were stolen from us. They asked me what I wanted back the most, and I told them my jewelry. I knew my request was probably an impossible one, but nevertheless, I still hoped I might get back just a few of my keepsakes. And then last week, I got a call to drop by the sheriff's office and much to my delight and surprise, these officers returned to me several pieces of jewelry that represent some of those memories I thought had been taken away from me forever. I hid my tears to keep from embarrassing Doug and Rob, but when I got to the car, tears of joy slid down my cheeks as I looked at the jewelry, which to me, symbolized love and family and commitment. The dedication, hardwork and diligence of Investigators Henry and Evenson, under the direction of Sheriff Epperly, are to be commended. You've earned the gratitude and respect of both Mike and I, and I now sleep easier knowing men like you are protecting and serving the citizens of Barry County.