You’d have thought they were the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the way they crashed through my front door about 10:15 pm on December 6.
I had already gone to bed. I had my laptop open to make sure I hadn’t missed anything on Reddit, and was brushing one of my geriatric cats, George, when I heard the pounding on the door. The doorbell rang almost simultaneously. Obviously something was wrong, so I got out of bed to grab my robe. Did one of my neighbors have an emergency? There’s a young family that lives on one side of me with a toddler. My friend Jean, another single woman, lives across the street. On the other side of me are a quiet couple about my age. What could be wrong?
I hadn’t yet crossed the room when I realized that there were people in my house. Multiple people. The only time multiple people come into my house at that time of night without me letting them in is when my son and nephews are home from college, and they were all … away at college.
My phone was across the room, on the bedside table next to the bed I had just left. Before I could get to it, I was staring at a man standing in my bedroom pointing a sawed-off shotgun at my face.
A few days later I would learn that the gunman’s name was Robert Morgan Perry. His buddies had referred to him as “Ray” throughout their visit. He called them “Pookie” and “Luke.”
Yes, they were stupid enough to call each other by name. Clearly, these gangstas did not spend their spare time watching CSI. As the twenty minutes or so that they spent in my house dragged by, it became clear to me that they had never paid much attention to true crime shows like Forensic Files or The First 48, either.
After pocketing my iPhone, the man grabbed my laptop computer from where it sat on my bed. He was not wearing gloves. Then he started yanking cords out of the electronics beside my bed. My clock radio, my iPod dock. He looked around and saw a quilt. He dumped the items onto the quilt, which apparently would serve as a way for him to carry those things out, then looked around my bedroom for more stuff to take. The whole time he carelessly waved his gun toward me.
It was a big gun, about a foot long, and it looked like it meant business. I wasn’t sure whether the guy himself was all that strong, but given the artillery he had, I decided not to find out.
He grabbed the jewelry I had left on top of my dresser. Three of my favorites. A pair of antique Victorian chandelier ruby earrings, an antique gold ring I wore all the time, and my Goddess. My heart cried out when he took my Goddess. The he started yanking drawers out of the dresser and dumping their contents. He dropped one of the smaller drawers and kicked it. It shattered. He kicked the pieces out of the way and jerked open the next drawer. He sifted through my underwear, holding up items he found interesting. My stomach churned with disgust.
“Is there anybody else in this house?” he yelled at me. “If there’s anybody else in this house I’m going to blow his ass away!” Ray repeated this threat several times throughout his visit. No, no one else was home. I was glad Jack was at college. I was glad the dogs were at Skip’s. Had Missy or Frogger attacked armed intruders, they might both be dead.
I knew I had to look at him to be able to remember a good description. I stared at his face whenever he turned toward me. I estimated him to be about 5’6, with a slim build – maybe about 150 pounds – and medium skin. I had to remember. I hated looking at his face, especially as he fingered my lingerie.
“Where’s the rest of your jewelry?” he demanded. I said nothing. He waved the gun in my direction. “I know you got more jewelry,” he said.
“That’s it. You’ve got it. That’s what I wear every day,” I answered. That much was two-thirds true. I wear the ring every day. I wear the Goddess most days. The earrings, though, I tend to wear just during the holidays, because they remind me of Christmas ornaments.
He looked around the room. I could hear his future co-defendants moving around upstairs. My bedroom is one level down from the front entrance to my house. He waved the gun again. “Where’s your damn jewelry?” he demanded.
Now, here’s where I confess that I am a jewelry whore. I don’t wear makeup very often, and I usually just pull my otherwise unkempt hair into a ponytail, but otherwise I’m very much a dragon. I love sparkly things. I love gold. I love shiny stones. I love silver. I like big jewelry. I am quite content when I am surrounded by pretty baubles. My hoard of shiny, sparkly things makes me happy. I’ve collected antique jewelry for years. And I was damned if I was going to tell him where it was.
But he kept yelling at me and waving that gun in my face. Finally I told him I had a safe in my closet. It was sitting on the floor. He grinned as he carried it out, smug in his conquest. He called for Pookie to keep an eye on me while he carried the safe out. One of the other two men obliged, but unlike Ray, his face was covered. He was wearing my son’s Guy Fawkes mask.
He was about the same size as Ray, though, with hair either braided or in tight dreadlocks, pulled back into a short ponytail. I might not be able to see his face, but I could tell what his build was.
At some point during all this, I heard a terrific crash from upstairs. I couldn’t tell where it came from, just that it was really, really loud. Something big had fallen.
Those fuckers were breaking my stuff.
Evidently since they hadn’t worked to earn the money to pay for it, they couldn’t care less whether they damaged it. I had visions of antique French furniture being smashed into kindling. I worried that my grandmother’s Italian crystal chandelier had been ripped from the dining room ceiling. I expected them to take all the electronics they could carry. I just hoped they’d leave the antiques and art alone. Hopefully they didn’t know what those things were worth, and couldn’t tell about the value of my other shiny baubles, set about my home and in cases and on shelves. I hoped all they wanted were things they could sell quickly and easily, but because that horrible man grinned as he pocketed three pieces of unique and easily identifiable jewelry, I was worried.
Ray soon returned to the bedroom, and a third guy also came downstairs where we were. I saw three men during that incident, but I thought perhaps I heard someone else still upstairs when the three I saw were downstairs. They systematically yanked the TV and other electronics out of the wall sockets and carried them out. I have a sewing room next to my bedroom, and they took the TV from there, too.
Then one of the thugs noticed my collection of antique sterling silver and mother of pearl sewing tools. More shiny baubles. He emptied the display case and my heart sank. Most of those belonged to two of my great-grandmothers, and they are irreplaceable. The price they will bring at a pawn shop pales in comparison to what they are worth, and what they mean to me.
Two of them returned upstairs, leaving only Ray downstairs. He rummaged through my closets, digging through bags and boxes. Unwrapped Christmas gifts sat in one closet. After dumping the box they were in, Ray apparently saw nothing worth stealing so moved on.
Then he yelled to ask if Pookie had his gun. Startled, I saw that Ray was no longer holding the gun. A wild hope of escape crossed my mind, but with Ray between me and the back door, and at least two more men upstairs, I was frozen with indecision. Could I make it across the street to Jean’s? Not if I had to run past them. Could I get out the back door? Probably not before Ray caught up with me. Would he just let me run? Probably not. If I ran, where could I go? To get to Jean’s I’d have to cross the street in front of my house, where Ray’s buddies were probably loading things into their vehicle. And one of them – I didn’t know which – probably had that gun. I felt like a deer in headlights. I didn’t run.
He moved to the laundry room across from my bedroom, demanding that I come with him. He had found a clear plastic bag someplace, and began stuffing smaller things into it. “What the hell? That’s my travel iron!” I couldn’t help myself. These idiots were risking a prison sentence of 20-40 years or life for miniature iron that probably cost less than $20 and was at least 15 years old? Seriously? Ray just looked at me and grinned. Maybe he was in this for the excitement, not the money.
Some of the things they took and some of the things they left were puzzling. The drawer holding my sterling silver flatware was open, but nothing was missing. They took the Rock Band video game components – then abandoned them just outside the basement door – but didn’t even knock Jack’s 50th Anniversary Fender Stratocaster off its stand.
Ray ordered me up the stairs. I hoped they wouldn’t kidnap me. The hope of being able to run past them, out the front door and across the street to Jean’s, beat wildly in my chest. On the way upstairs, I noticed blood dripped on the wall and on the landing. Satisfaction mingled with my faint hope. One of them was bleeding, and that meant better forensic evidence than smudged fingerprints and half-remembered descriptions from a terrified victim. I looked away from the blood. I hoped the thugs wouldn’t notice it. They stopped me at the top of the stairs. I couldn’t see out the front door, and I couldn’t see whether there were other people.
I wondered if I dared to try to push past them to get across the street to Jean’s house before they found the gun, but someone yelled that he had it. I wondered if these thugs really had the courage, or were psychopathic enough, to really use it. I decided that trial and error was not a good way to find out.
Finally one of them said he had the gun. I couldn’t tell which. All those potential escape scenarios committed seppuku in my brain.
When they decided they had been at my house long enough, the one in the Guy Fawkes mask led me down to the basement and told me to wait 60 seconds after they left to leave the room. Then he said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we’re just trying to feed our families.”
I wondered who they thought would feed their families while they were in prison. Bringing that gun along had added at least ten years to their sentences, and none of them was wearing gloves. I had seen Ray’s face, and studied it well. I had desperately noted every detail I could about the other two, from their hairstyles to their body types.
He left the room, and a few moments later I heard the squeal of tires. I bolted upstairs. They hadn’t found my kitchen phone. I shook as I dialed 911. I blurted out what had happened, and then I started to really panic. What if they came back? Should I stay, or leave? I begged the 911 operator to call my sister. She tried, but my sister was out of town. I didn’t want to bother my brother, Jay, who I knew had been up for nearly 48 hours already because of a huge project at work. I asked her to call my son’s father. He didn’t answer his phone. I started to cry. She called him again. Still no answer. But by this time the police arrived.
I was telling the police what had happened when my phone rang. It was my ex. I begged him to come over.
I love Skip – he’s still one of my very best friends, even though we’ve been divorced nearly eight years. I am really sorry for ruining his evening – he said he had left a very promising date to come see about me. I don’t know who the woman was, but I sure hope she accepts that his decision was a sign of his strength of character, and not a competition where she came in second. (She’s welcome to him. Take my ex-husband. Please. All I ask is that she allow him to remain my friend when it comes to Jack. And in the occasional emergency.)
A few minutes later the doorbell rang again. My sister had called Jay, who immediately had come wide awake despite his exhaustion and broken land speed records over the ten miles to my house. I love that man, too. He thought to turn on the “Track my Phone” feature and found that the thugs and my phone were at the hospital less than half a mile away. He put my phone in lost mode.
Jack came home that night, too. Jay had texted him and told him not to break speed records getting here, but I don’t think Jack paid much attention. He walked in the house and hugged me tighter than he has since he was a very little guy. Even if he’s grown, I guess he still loves his mom.
Jack helped me clean up the wreckage in my bedroom after the police, Skip, and Jay left. Neither one of us expected to sleep. About 5 a.m., I picked up one of the quilts and was surprised that it was heavy. I put it back down and unfolded it. Hidden within were my laptop, my bedside clock-radio, my iPod, and my iPod dock. Ray had apparently forgotten them in the excitement of carrying out a heavy safe full of jewelry, I guess. Jack and I laughed.
Pookie left a lot of blood all over my house. He cut himself either taking my big TV off the wall over my living room fireplace, or ripping cords out of the desktop computer he didn’t take the time to unhook. His thug buddies apparently took Pookie from my house straight to the ER to get him stitched up. They turned my phone on and off several times over the next several days – at Pookie’s house, at the barber college where Luke apparently works, and a few other places. The detectives were able to round up Pookie and Luke pretty quickly, and they confessed and implicated a fourth man, a guy named Wilbert Champ. I never saw Champ. Maybe he was the one I heard walking around upstairs while Pookie, Luke and Ray were all downstairs. Ray told me there were five of them altogether.
A friend of mine runs the Forbidden Hillcrest site. I’ve followed his blog for several years, since it’s all about my neighborhood. It’s fun to read – it has the history of Hillcrest, fictional neighborhood drama, and real neighborhood drama. On the Facebook page for Forbidden Hillcrest, there are lots of crime reports and commentary from my neighbors. When Pookie, Luke and Champ were arrested, the arrest reports were posted to the Forbidden Hillcrest page. Within minutes, my intrepid neighbors had found the Facebook pages for Pookie and Luke.
The “gangsta” talk on those two pages is almost unintelligible. It appears from Pookie’s post the day after the robbery that they did this as part of his birthday celebration. He said, “thanx to erbodi who wished me a happy bday~A0~” What a way to celebrate – scare the shit out of some woman you’ve never seen before, forcibly deprive her of her things, wreck her house, and get arrested. Whooo-eeee, we’re having some fun, now.
Most disheartening, though was a photo posted on Luke’s page of himself and a small child. “Me and my lil g” is what he calls it. The child’s lower face is covered with a bandana, and both of them are throwing gang signs.
He’s proud of teaching a child to live a life of crime. After 20 years of practicing juvenile law, this disgusts me so completely there are barely words to describe how I feel. Talk about a kid having a lot to overcome – if crime is glorified to this child, then he’s going to end up in prison right along with Luke.
Luke appears to have at least some remorse for what he did. When he bonded out of jail after the arrest, he posted “Js wanna say srry 2 all da people I let down I’m finna get my life together from now on” on his Facebook status. He’s at least sorry for getting caught, which is a start. He’d have more credibility with me if he returned my jewelry and antique sewing tools, though. Who knows – he might get a lighter sentence than his co-defendants for his efforts. And he might actually straighten his life out. He’ll take a step toward transforming himself from a shitty human being to a human being who did something shitty once.
Ray is still at large, but there’s a warrant out for his arrest. When I received word of that, and learned what his name was, I looked him up on the Pulaski County Clerk’s website. Piecing it together from docket entries on the website, it looks like he drew a battery charge in May 2006. Apparently he didn’t ever show up for court, so in 2008 a warrant was finally issued for his arrest again. Eventually he got probation for the battery charge.
Then in April 2008 he was charged with the statutory rape of a 13 year old girl. He entered a negotiated plea – a plea bargain – to the lesser offense of sexual assault, and was sentenced to ten years, with 5 suspended, and sent to ADC in November 2008. He apparently got out on parole and did something else to get the suspended sentence imposed. The revocation petition mentions that he was in possession of firearms, which felons are not to have. There was a revocation hearing in October 2011 and he went to ADC again. Then in March 2012 he was sentenced to another 5 years on the sexual assault charge – essentially the suspended 5 years of the original sentence was imposed. I don’t know why he was already out in time to rob me at gunpoint by December 6. I have a feeling, though, that he’s going to spend a little longer in prison this time.
I don’t have any of my things back, and given the crash I heard from upstairs, I doubt the one television the police recovered will still work. It was covered in Pookie’s blood when they found it, anyway, so I’m not real sure I even want it back. They also recovered Jack’s Guy Fawkes mask. When I showed him the arrest report that said the mask had been found, Jack grimaced and said they could keep it.
Two nights later, about the same time, there was another armed home invasion robbery in my neighborhood. I wonder if the same thugs were responsible.
My friends keep asking me how I’m doing.
I do fine until it’s time to go to bed. Then I replay that twenty minutes in my mind, second-guessing myself, wondering what I could have done differently. Then I get up and take a Xanax, and after another twenty minutes of replaying the robbery, I finally fall asleep.
I could have locked up my jewelry before I went to bed. They wouldn’t have gotten my Goddess, then. I’m lucky that all they got were those three pieces of jewelry.
Oh, the safe I mentioned? The one I told Ray to get out of the closet? Yeah, it didn’t have jewelry in it. There was nothing of significant value in it at all. I hadn’t even opened it in ages. My best friend was under strict instructions to get that safe out of my house stat if anything ever happened to me, because my mom and my son should never see its contents.
I almost wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Ray and Pookie and Luke drilled into it expecting to find my dragon’s hoard of jewels, and learned that most of what was in it no doubt needed new batteries.