Glenn Perkins said it was hard to tell who was more surprised: The burglar who was caught red-handed, or Perkins, who discovered the intruder who slipped into his South Whidbey home Wednesday and interrupted his morning coffee.
The Island County Sheriff’s Office is still searching for the burglar, who escaped from Perkins’ home on Kolia Place after assaulting the homeowner and running off into the woods nearby. A police artist has made a drawing of the suspect, and the sketch is expected to be released to the media Friday.
The break-in, which follows a series of residential burglaries across Whidbey Island in recent months, prompted a frenzied but unsuccessful search for the burglar Wednesday. The prowler was described as a thin white man, with long reddish hair in a ponytail, who was wearing a khaki-colored shirt, Dockers-style pants and a blue baseball cap.
The break-in happened just after 10:30 a.m.
Perkins said he was sitting with his wife in a sunroom at one end of the house, having coffee and reading the local newspaper, when he heard a noise in another room.
He thought one of the couple’s cats, Ricky or Sissy, had knocked something over.
Then Perkins heard another noise, and got up to investigate.
Walking toward the master bedroom, he came face to face with a burglar who had already found something to steal; a box was under his arm and he was making his way through the home.
“I hollered at him; I said, ‘What are you doing in my house?'”
“Obviously, he was very startled.”
Perkins said the man turned around and ran to the front door, with Perkins also making a dash to the entryway.
The intruder found the front door locked and struggled to get it open. He quickly gave up and turned back the other way.
“He rushed by me and went around into our hobby room and the next thing he ends back up in the sunroom,” Perkins recalled.
Meanwhile, the homeowner’s wife, who was still in the sunroom, had picked up the telephone and was talking to a 911 dispatcher.
“He was very excited and scared and everything else — and so were we,” Perkins said.
Perkins confronted the man as he stood there, again trapped.
“I said something like, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘I’m Jeff, now let me out of here!”
The burglar reached for the handle of a glass door that led outside, but the man couldn’t figure out how to undo the complicated lock. Perkins’ wife — still on the phone with a 911 dispatcher – reached over to try to unlock it, but backed away as the man then tried to kick the glass out of the door.
But the glass wouldn’t break.
“My wife had left the room, and he swung and hit me on the lip, got by me and … ran back to the front door and was gone,” he said.
Perkins said the incident lasted maybe five minutes.
The intruder apparently got into the home by crawling through a cat window in a bathroom, but knocked over a vase holding artificial flowers when he squeezed through the small opening.
Perkins said he didn’t felt threatened by the man, and said when he first discovered the burglar, he found a neatly dressed man in a khaki shirt with a box under his arm.
His first thought was that a delivery man had walked into the home.
“That was what passed through my mind: ‘What is the UPS guy doing in my house?'”
Perkins said he figured the thief had first tried to get into his garage, but found it locked, then made his way around the outside of the house and peered in through a front window.
It was there, Perkins said, where the prowler had probably sighted a box sitting on a dresser in the guest room near the front of the house.
Finding the front door locked, Perkins said the intruder came around the side of the home and went through a gate before finding the cat door.
Once inside, the burglar came through the bathroom, through the master bedroom — passing by an open closet that had a jewelry chest and hanging necklaces that would have been in full view, Perkins said — on his way to the guest bedroom and the box on the dresser.
It was that box the burglar had under his arm when Perkins found him inside.
But panic quickly set in when the prowler found he wasn’t alone in the home.
“He was totally worried about getting out,” Perkins said. “He just wanted to get away and we just wanted to him to get away.”
“At the same time, I would have liked him to stick around until the police got here,” he added.
Perkins said the burglar was wearing latex gloves, though police did get a good imprint of the intruder’s shoe from when he kicked the glass door in the sunroom.
And he did leave his name behind, something Perkins said that deputies were surprised to hear.
“Nobody could believe it,” he said, adding that the man blurted “Jeff” out so fast that he doubted it was an alias.
“He would have had to be extremely quick; it just came out of his mouth, being cornered and the adrenaline and everything.”
The broad-daylight break-in left others shaken in the neighborhood just north of South Whidbey State Park.
A neighbor who asked not to be identified said she had trouble sleeping Wednesday night, and was startled each time she heard the slightest noise. Some folks were making plans to stay at home.
South Whidbey has seen a string of more than two dozen residential burglaries and car prowls since late October, with most occurring in the early morning hours on weekdays. Most of the burglaries have been reported in Freeland, Useless Bay and Clinton, and the rash of robberies triggered an email alert to residents from Sheriff Mark Brown late last month.
The sheriff’s office is advising residents to keep their garages, vehicles and homes locked, and to call 911 to report any suspicious activity.