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Unsolicited Journey

Some days, weeks or months hold a certain significance in your life that trigger specific memories.

It was a year ago this month, that I faced my neighbor in court for a second time. I was given the opportunity to tell him about the impact his actions had on our family in a statement that I wrote and read during his sentencing. The first time we met in a courtroom, was five months earlier at the beginning of February, when he was being arraigned for felony charges of burglary and a few other misdemeanor crimes including possession of stolen property. He was wearing an orange jump suit and mouthed the words “I’m sorry” to me when I looked over to where he was seated next to an armed guard. This was a few days after he was caught coming out of our home by a young, smart, quick-thinking State Trooper who is a credit to his profession in every way.

NYS Trooper Timko, heard the “burglary in progress” call come over his radio and knew he had limited time. He also knew this was for real. He managed to get to our house in less than three minutes, coming from across town, nearly five miles away. Even though six local squad cars also responded to the call, Timko was the first to arrive on the scene. He’d been checking in with us throughout the winter after responding to our initial complaint in November. As a result, he knew exactly where to go to at our house and indeed, found the perpetrator coming out of our backyard. When Timko apprehended him, this tough (creepy) guy was wearing slippers, a hoodie and his sister’s sweat pants. He also had black gloves and a blue ski mask on his person. That would account for why my husband didn’t recognize him when a flurry of images showing a burglar in our home, were transmitted to his iPhone via email, thus prompting the 911 call.

The “burglar” was wearing the ski mask as he crept up the stairs to our living room.

Imagine this image coming through your email while you’re at work.                                                                   © 2011 Karen Szczuka Teich

Imagine now, seeing this and having no idea who this is, in your home. CREEPY.                                                 © 2011 Karen Szczuka Teich

Seven weeks earlier we hid a motion sensor camera in our living room at Trooper Timko’s urging and after being robbed six times in three months.

It was a Tuesday. I was off and had gone out for lunch with friends. Before leaving I did the same thing I’d done every day for the past seven weeks. I unlocked the window leading to a crawl space underneath our porch in the small bathroom just off the family room in our basement. I glanced around the family room confirming that there was a few dollars and some loose change lying around, ran upstairs to the living room, made sure the camera was on, dropped a five dollar bill on the coffee table in direct view of the camera’s eye, locked the front door and left.

When I got home, I poked my head downstairs just long enough to immediately notice that the money was gone.

“Oh My God — he was here!” I thought to myself. Although at that time, I had no idea who “he” was.

My heart pounded wildly as I ran upstairs knowing with absolute certainty, that the five dollar bill I’d placed on the glass coffee table two hours earlier would also be gone and it was.

The words tumbled frantically out of my mouth when I called my husband,

“He was here! Why didn’t you call me? He was here! Did you check your email?”

My husband had no idea what I was talking about. There was no email from the camera. No pictures.

I didn’t understand. What the hell happened?

This was burglary number seven and by far, the most invasive. This was the one where much of my jewelry was taken, including my engagement ring and the first pair of gold Italian droplet earrings my husband gave me 18-years earlier. This was the time when it was blatant that my personal drawer and private things had been touched, taken and rooted through. I couldn’t speak. I was devastated. The long wait was over and we blew it. Surely, he would never come back. Why would he? There was nothing left. He had cleaned us out. I went to bed at 4pm.

It took my husband all night and several technical support phone calls to learn that in fact, the camera received 45-minutes worth of constant “hits” which began 10-minutes after I’d left the house but because of a windstorm the day before (and unbeknownst to us) our internet was “down” that afternoon and no pictures were saved or transmitted.

Forty-five minutes of constant hits.

The next morning, I performed my daily ritual before leaving the house but truly, it was only out of habit. I was beyond discouraged and didn’t even bother to leave money on the coffee table.

That’s why it was so hard to comprehend what my husband was saying when he called me at work that afternoon and calmly said,

“I just called 911. There’s a burglar in our house right now. I can see him. He has a weapon and he sees the camera. I think he’s going to break it.” 

I was stunned.

This makes me sick as he creeps beneath the picture my daughter drew of me and my husband when she was in Kindergarten. © 2011 Karen Szczuka Teich

The “weapon” turned out to be a screw driver. He unplugged the camera and saw the police coming through a bay window. © 2011 Karen Szczuka Teich

It was shocking to learn the thief, was our neighbor; a 20-year old boy who had been helping himself to our money and jewelry, who had ripped our screen windows, cracked our doors and broke into our lock box. It was someone we knew, who had gone through our little girl’s bedroom removing holiday money from jars on her dresser and cards in her drawers. It was the boy next door, who had taken my son’s little, silver bear-bank filled with coins, the one that held the picture of him as a smiling infant in his crib. A quick and cursory search of  my neighbor’s bedroom by law enforcement agents after his arrest, uncovered a few personal items that belonged to my family. I identified them and they were taken into evidence.

Once the initial shock wore off, we had a brief stint with elation. It was over. Over. Woohoo! We had caught this CREEP ourselves and it was finally over. Or so I thought. What I didn’t realize, was that it was just the beginning of yet another long journey I had no idea I, we, were meant to take. It began with five months of dealing with phone calls, court dates and an overworked Assistant DA who seemed confused by our level of “participation” and whose comment to me that he just couldn’t get over “how interested” we were in our case, left me dumbfounded and disheartened. Luckily, we had a DA friend from a neighboring town, who coached us along the way.

Sometime at the end of last summer, a NY State Trooper’s car pulled up onto my lawn and Trooper Timko came to my front door. He was personally returning the items found in a sock at the bottom of a closet in my neighbor’s bedroom during that cursory search after his arrest. Returned to me was one of my Italian droplet earrings, a gold “K” charm my dad gave me as a child and the now empty, silver bear-bank that was taken from my son’s room.

Of all the things he took, the one thing I miss the most, is the little round picture of my smiling baby in his crib that sat in the frame attached to the bank. It bothers me, a lot that he removed that picture.

And even though we were awarded full restitution of over $10,500, honestly, I would just like to have the picture back.

It was a year ago this month that I began a new and unsolicited journey, one that opened a Pandora’s box and hasn’t seen fit to close itself yet. One that has taken me to a place in my life now, that I never expected to be, interspersed with equal parts of immense joy and pain. One that in the past year, has brought forth many surprising twists and turns in the form of a variety of people, places and things, bringing me face to face with who I am and who I strive to be. It has re-surfaced old truths; the hard kinds, the ones that have been buried for a long time and will no longer go away. This journey leaves me a little sadder but much stronger and more determined than I have ever been. It’s difficult at times but it’s also hopeful, open-ended and holds great promise for the future and clearly, it is far, far, far, from over.

#realifeburglar

Previous posts related to this subject: My Edward and Life’s Terms – Not Mine

Photo Credits: #1, #2, #3 & #4 –  © 2011 Karen Szczuka Teich. All rights reserved.

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  1. JH
    June 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Reading this makes me sad and mad for your family all over again…and I want to go you-know-where and smack BBQ’s face, really. You are amazing.

    Like

  2. June 19, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Oh, it’s not meant to make anyone sad! It is what it is — although I kinda want to smack his face too when I see him “sun-ing” himself in his back yard. But hey….it won’t be long now ….and I have high expectations for the rest of this journey! All good stuff. Thanks for reading, dear friend.

    Like

  3. anita
    June 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    No one should ever have their foundations rocked like this. Just reading it, I feel kicked in the stomach. You and your family lived it…I can only begin to imagine how that goes.

    Like

  4. June 19, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    It goes, in many different directions Anita and for sure, each of us emerges differently from the experience but as the saying goes……it could have been a lot worse.

    Like

  5. Anonymous
    June 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    reading this blog brought back so many awful memories of what you and your family have been through,hopefully one day soon ,you can put all this behind you,
    mom.

    Like

  6. June 19, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Oh my….. I guess this one is a bit of a downer!! I don’t know that we’ll forget but we are definitely moving on. Mom…next week I will publish a happy post!!

    Like

  7. Veronica
    June 20, 2011 at 10:54 am

    You are so brave! You forgot to mention how this kid violates his restraining order everyday by living in your yard.

    Like

  8. June 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Veronica I don’t think I’m brave, I just do the best I can as anyone would and SOON I will no longer have to see him right next door because yes, he violates the the 100 yard- 5-year order of protection we have against him, everyday simply by living where he does. Thanks for reading, sweetie!

    Like

  9. June 25, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Yikes! What a crazy story — and how sad that you and your family had to be dragged through all this fear, drama, and loss! So glad that it’s over (??) and hopefully you can get back to your family life! Also loved your previous post — and yes, Letting Go is what you are forced to do in your 40s… but then… you find such delicious freedom and lightness! Hang in there!!

    Like

  10. June 25, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Thank you so much for reading, commenting and leaving me a little bit of hope, Betty!

    Like

  11. July 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    That is so brutal! I’m glad that you eventually caught him but that sucks that you had to go through so much angst throughout it.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog! 🙂

    Like

  12. August 19, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Having someone ransack your home is a sickening experience. We were burgled when I was 12, living with my mother, and I came home alone one night to find our front door open. Thank heaven they were gone. I will never forget it.

    Like

  13. August 19, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I agree an experience like that has a terribly long-lasting effect. Sadly our experience went on for several months and took a terrible toll on our family as a whole. I am now separated from my husband and thankfully, no longer live in that home. The thief still lives next door and it always bothers me when my kids are at that house.Thanks so much for stopping by, reading & commenting.

    Like

  1. June 20, 2011 at 1:45 am
  2. November 6, 2011 at 8:28 am
  3. November 27, 2011 at 12:00 am
  4. March 18, 2012 at 12:20 am
  5. September 2, 2012 at 12:00 am
  6. March 24, 2013 at 12:04 am
  7. December 29, 2013 at 12:05 am
  8. June 28, 2015 at 1:32 am
  9. July 4, 2015 at 11:59 pm

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