Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey spoke about the home invasion and assault incident that occurred March 15 on Butterfly Avenue in Dunsmuir during a special Dunsmuir Neighborhood Watch meeting Monday evening that was called by Mayor Bruce Deutsch.
Some members of the public have expressed concern and fear after the incident, and more than 30 people attended the meeting, which was standing room only in the City Council chambers.
Sheriff Lopey gave details about the incident and the juvenile suspect who was arrested, answered questions, and gave some safety suggestions.
“I am sure everyone has heard about this terrible crime that occurred around 5:30 a.m.,” stated Sheriff Lopey. “This young man, a 17 year old, was at a residence the morning of the incident and allegedly was using marijuana and concentrated cannabis. According to the investigation, he was acting in such a way that the resident of the house made him leave. The young man was wandering the streets. It is cold, he doesn’t have a home to go to, and he is looking for a shelter. He finds a car that is unlocked and enters that car. So please lock your cars and lock your homes at all times, even during the day. The individual stays in the car for a while, then decides to leave the car and ends up on Butterfly Avenue. He finds another car, not far from the victim’s home, and it has tools and other valuables in the car. At some point he took the tool belt out of the car. Some of us who have been in Siskiyou County are more trusting; there was a time where you didn’t have to lock your doors in some of our communities; that’s not the case anymore.”
Lopey said the individual somehow got into the victim’s garage, moved to the backyard of the home and removed a screen from a sliding window to enter the residence. He said the victim heard noises, opened the bedroom door and encountered the suspect.
During the course of this encounter, Lopey said the assailant attempted to strangle the elderly victim and at some point tried to sexually assault the elderly victim, according to the evidence that the Sheriff’s office has.
“The victim’s actions were extraordinary, because she kept her cool and at one point she feigned unconsciousness and he went off and was rummaging through the house looking for things to take,” stated Lopey.
He said at some point, the assailant decided to leave the residence in the victim’s car with her bank card. The assailant did not know how to start the victim’s vehicle, so he forced the victim drive him about a block, and then kicks the victim out of the vehicle after receiving the bank PIN.
Lopey said the bank helped the Sheriff’s office by catching the assailant on camera and releasing the footage to the department.
The assailant was on camera attempting to hide his identity with a hood and covering his face, according to the Sheriff.
Dunsmuir High School also assisted the Sheriff, as they believed they knew who the assailant was, Lopey said.
About 3:14 in the afternoon, Lopey said Deputy Mike Burns spotted the vehicle and arrested the individual and a teenage female that was with the assailant.
The assailant, charged with home invasion robbery, attempted murder, sexual assault, burglary, auto theft, theft, kidnapping, false imprisonment, and elder abuse, was transferred to Tehama County for holding, according to Lopey.
The District Attorney will look over the evidence and decide what the individual will be charged with. Since the assailant would be 18 years old in October, it is possible that he will be tried as an adult.
“Anytime a horrendous crime like this is committed, it is a concern to us all,” stated Lopey. “You’re safer since this individual is off the streets.”
Lopey said his department is trying to form a panel of experts throughout the county to help identify problem kids in advance to help prevent situations of this sort. They are attempting to look further into truancy, as well as drugs and alcohol with minors. He said, “We can’t just arrest a kid and throw them in juvenile hall, or if they are adults, in jail. We have to have prevention.”
Some attending the meeting wanted to know why the assailant committed the crime. Sheriff Lopey believes that it was a crime of opportunity. The individual, after having allegedly participated in the use of controlled substances, saw an opportunity to enter a home and commit a crime.
“We have no reason to believe that she was targeted or that they even knew each other,” Lopey said. “He did use an instrument to jimmy the lock on the window. That illustrates a point; check your homes. Make sure your windows can be locked, make sure your doors are secure, consider an alarm system, consider lighting, consider a dog for warning.”
Questions and comments
A member of the community asked Lopey what happened to the teenage girl that was also arrested. Lopey replied by stating that the investigation revealed that the teenage girl did not have any involvement in the crime and they do not believe that she knew the vehicle was stolen. He said the assailant had allegedly picked up the girl after the crime was committed.
Sheriff Lopey also stated that he would ask Sergeant Lou Mero to summarize the more major crimes and send them to out to the City and in news releases. The newspaper would be happy to work with the Sheriff’s office to put something together.
Mario Rubino said, “I have been in the town over 20 years and have dealt with the Sheriffs a couple times as I was a victim of some crimes. I was on Butterfly Street at about 8:30, your Sergeant did an wonderful job. I had some business with our Councilman Mari Shanta, I walked down the street and [the Sergeant] was down there asking her questions. When he talked to us we mentioned that there were cameras next door. He got the phone number and email address and contacted the person. It was exemplary work. I thought it was incredible work; it is the best I have ever seen and I am very thankful.”
Offers of assistance
Caleb Ott, Chief Operations Officer of the McCloud Healthcare Clinic and Dunsmuir Community Health Center, spoke about services for the public. “The resource center, even though it is open only three days a week, it is very strong,” Ott said. “If you walk into this resource, we can guarantee that you will be seen. CPS is there, the Siskiyou County Mental Health is there with their drug and alcohol counselors there. It is good to see this community come together to help solve these issues.” He continued, “Incidents like this do create a fear in the community and can cause some anxiety from just being in your own home. If you are feeling anxious or having those sorts of issues, you can see a counselor at our clinic. If anyone were to walk into the clinic, you would be seen. We will make time.”
City Council member Dave Keisler offered his help by stating that he, along with help from Sergeant Lou Mero, would come to anyone’s home and check it to make sure it is secure. This would help to keep homes and property safe and could prevent invasions and other crimes.
‘Important to be aware’
Sergeant Mero stated, “It is important to be aware in the community. This is a significant event that sends ripples throughout the community. Unfortunately, our time is coming in our small mountain community that we are seeing things that have affected the rest of the nation for years. At some point in time we have to start making adjustments in our lives. We have to start learning more about the people around us and pay more attention. We have to lock our cars, we have to maintain our houses, and we need to take an active role in protecting ourselves instead of simply thinking that it is just going to happen. When people are afraid, we often want to know why things happen. The challenge that you will have is that there is no way to understand insanity. By definition it does not fit our normal thinking process. So don’t try to understand why this happened in a mathematical way, because it can’t be done. There are indicators that grow over the years that time and time again pop up with these types of events. If we begin to learn and recognize those events and be more mindful about those things as they develop, then we as a community can hopefully start preventing these things from occurring by addressing those needs at a smaller scale.”
Dunsmuir Mayor Bruce Deutsch said the next Neighborhood Watch meeting is to be held on April 12 in the City Council Chambers. Members of the community are welcome to attend and help make the community safer.