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Thefts from garages and vehicles at Donnybrook put residents on edge

Several of the 70 or so residents of Donnybrook say they’re now locking their doors at night after intruders entered garages and vehicles around town during the early morning hours of August 15th.

8/24/11 (Wed)


Several of the 70 or so residents of Donnybrook say they’re now locking their doors at night after intruders entered garages and vehicles around town during the early morning hours of August 15th.


A variety of items were stolen during the unlawful entries, although the victims were often more surprised at what was left untouched. Marshall Johnson said the thieves walked into his garage and rummaged through the vehicles. His wife’s purse was taken, although most of those contents were retrieved during the week as the Johnsons discovered her credit cards, driver’s license and other items discarded in shrubs and tall grass within a block of their home. Still missing is $100 in cash.


Johnson noted the thieves also kept license registrations and insurance cards from the consoles of his vehicles. “They took dumb things,” he said. “In my garage at home, there’s a lot of stuff they didn’t touch, and they weren’t in my shop or the Gas Depot. If it was locked, they didn’t break in that we’re aware of.”


Pam Linderleaf was not missing any items, although the intruders opened her garage door, which is actually on the side of her house rather than facing the street. She said her old pickup was parked on the street and a newer vehicle normally stored in the garage was being serviced at a Minot shop.


Her daughter Andrea Topolski, however, did lose items from the glove compartment of her vehicle. “In my opinion, the only reason you go through a glove box is for pistols or cash,” said Linderleaf.


She continued, “They were very careful to not slam any doors. They closed the vehicle doors just enough for the dome lights to go out.”


Linderleaf assumed that because the thieves knew where to find her walk-in garage door, perhaps they had previously chosen garages to target. She said several strangers have been observed in Donnybrook in recent months, mostly driving around looking for available housing.


“To see someone you don’t know is not unusual in Donnybrook these days,” she added.


Larry Knutson just missed the intruders when he left for work at 5:30 am Monday. His wife called him later, asking if he had done anything in his pickup before he left because the cab lights were on. That truck was parked outdoors.


“The cargo lights were on and the glove box was open,” said Knutson, who added nothing appeared to be missing. “I don’t keep anything of value in there.”


Knutson said he didn’t notice anything out of order in the neighborhood when he left the house in his work vehicle. “It was real dark out,” he said. “I didn’t see anything or hear anything. Maybe they didn’t have time to do much [at our place].”


Lee Breland’s home may have been the intruders’ final stop that morning. He was in his garage about 6 am, putting on his boots, when he heard a noise outside. “It looked like someone was standing outside my door,” he said. “When I went out there, they took off running.”


Breland gave chase and soon realized there were two people involved, of average build. He noticed their dark clothing and said one of the individuals was wearing a sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his or her head.


“I chased them out of my yard and then went in and told my wife to lock the door,” he said. “They did drop a chunk of metal in the yard.”


Breland drove around town before he left for work, but didn’t see any sign of the intruders or unusual vehicles. “They never took anything from us,” he said. “I’m pretty sure our house was the last stop, after our little encounter. And I know they had wheels somewhere. Nobody walks to Donnybrook.”


He considered the intruders’ actions to be risky, given the fact several local residents would be awake and preparing or leaving for work by 6 am. “Somebody had to have passed them on the street,” he said.


Donnybrook mayor Dennis Huff had a rifle taken from his truck, parked outside his home. “It was covered,” he said. “They also went through the console, but they never touched anything else.”


According to Huff, these and related events have put the area’s residents on edge. “We’ve been pretty trusting here, but there’s been stuff going on from Foxholm to Kenmare since spring,” Huff said. “Unfortunately, now you don’t dare not lock anything.”


The city of Donnybrook does not have its own law enforcement department and must rely on the Ward County Sheriff’s Department. Huff said he and other residents used word of mouth to caution their neighbors about locking doors. “Now, when you see a strange vehicle in town, you call somebody,” he added. “This has put everybody on high alert.”


Johnson agreed. “After 33 years here, this is the first time we’ve locked our house,” he said, adding that often he would leave keys in his vehicles in case a friend or relative needed to borrow a truck. He no longer does that. “It’s just sad.”


“As far as I’m concerned, they were trying to get into my house,” said Breland, noting that his garage is attached to his residence.


Knutson was concerned about the possibility of thieves breaking into his home and harming his wife, daughter and three grandchildren. He commented that if local residents feel threatened, they may react by defending their property and families.


“I don’t know what would happen, and I’d hate to see anybody put into that situation, but we have buildings and vehicles being illegally entered,” he said. “I’ve been here all my life, and now you have to lock your doors.”


Ward County Sheriff’s Deputy Willie Graham investigated the incidents and interviewed several victims later on August 15th. He said five reports were received of vehicles and garages entered. However, Johnson and Linderleaf said they heard of as many as 10 or 12 locations being targeted that morning, along with reports of similar activity from the Carpio area earlier in the night.


Donnybrook residents reported Monday they had no knowledge of any suspects or arrests made related to the incidents. Huff said he expected to see more patrols through the area.


“I feel they’ll be back,” Knutson said. “They may figure it’s easy pickings.”




Ward County Sheriff's Department
investigates Donnybrook thefts

 By Caroline Downs


Lieutenant Willie Graham of the Ward County Sheriff’s Department said the investigation into the unlawful entries and thefts reported in Donnybrook the morning of August 15th is ongoing.


He noted that five reports were received from individuals whose garages and/or vehicles were entered. No damages were reported in any of the situations. All vehicles entered were unlocked, and no forced entries were made into any of the garages.


Graham advised Donnybrook citizens, as well as all the residents in Ward County, to be conscious about personal security. “It doesn’t matter where you live,” he said, noting many longtime residents may consider changing their habits. “You still have to be cautious.”


He recommended residents take time to lock their homes, vehicles, outbuildings, garages and storage facilities. “It’s a precaution that can be taken by everybody and it’s very simple,” he said. “And it could be the one thing that keeps someone from entering your property.”


He also suggested Ward County residents should contact the Sheriff’s Department at 701-857-6500 to report suspicious or unusual activity in an area or 911 to report an emergency.


“Do not hesitate to call the Sheriff’s office,” he said. “We have people out on duty 24 hours a day. If you feel something needs to be checked out, call us. That’s what we’re here for.”