Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Safety Lesson: Locking Your Doors

This is an almost irrelevant lesson, but because listing the myriad of reasons why I obsessively lock the door behind me when I come home, I thought I would publicly post my reasons for future reference in hopes of staving off the merciless teasing.

I started to obsessively lock the front door behind me when I moved into my first apartment. Each apartment had its own independent entrance, and we were somewhat remove, but when I was alone I felt safer knowing any drunk attempts to stumble into the wrong apartment by my neighbors' guests would be unsuccessful. And before you laugh, it happened all the time. That won't happen to my parents' house, but that is not the point, oh my God, if you want to die in your sleep be my guest. Actually, that's not even true, because I don't want my stuff stolen. Please note, before you get up in arms, I admit to being "totally paranoid," and that I was in college from 2004 through 2008, which really enhanced my dire need for locked doors.

So I present to you, events that have scared me, perhaps irrationally even, into locking the door behind me.

November 15, 1959: Richard Hickcock and Perry Smith enter Herb Clutter's house in rural and remote Kansas, killing Clutter, his wife Bonnie, and his children Kenyon and Nancy. The murders will be novelized as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. In defense of my parents and naysayers, Hickcock and Smith were motivated by a false tip that Clutter kept a ton of cash in a safe, so they would have probably broken in anyway, having made a long drive to the home. He had neither. This is my single proof against the argument that it's "different" in the suburbs. (It's not.)

January 1978: Serial killer Richard Chase attempts to enter a home. Finding the door locked, he walks away. He enters another home through an unlocked door where he vandalizes the home. The homeowners return and chase him away. He enters yet another home on January 21, where he murders Theresa Wallin. And again, on Jaunary 27, he enters a home and kills Evelyn Miroth, Danny Meredith, Miroth's son Jason, and her nephew, David. When police finally catch Chase, he says he interprets unlocked doors as an invitation to enter, and locked doors as a sign that he is not welcome inside. How very polite.

April 17, 2004: Chris Elser, a Johns Hopkins University student, is stabbed and killed in a burglarly. The murderer entered through an unlocked door belonging to Elser's frat house.

January 1, 2006: The Harvey Family is murdered in their home, in Richmond, Va. at the hands of Ray Joseph Dandridge and Ricky Javon Gray during a vicious crime spree. Investigators think an unlocked front door was a contributing factor to the crime. Dandridge and Gray's spree include Treva Terrell Gray, Gray's wife, who was found murdered on November 5, 2005, and the Basker-Tuckerville family: Percyell Tucker, Mary Baskerville-Tucker, and suspected Harvey family accomplice Ashley Baskerville. Baskerville was Gray's girlfriend.

July 30, 2007: An April 2009 article from The L.A. Times:

Adam Leroy Lane, parked his rig in a suburban Boston neighborhood and slipped through an unlocked door into the home of Kevin and Jeannie McDonough.

The McDonoughs were lying in bed when they heard a whimper from the adjacent bedroom where their 15-year-old daughter, Shea, had been sleeping. They went to see what was wrong and found a masked figure holding a knife to their daughter's throat. Kevin McDonough, a slight but muscular utility contractor, grabbed the intruder, applied a chokehold and wrestled him to the floor. His wife grabbed the knife.

When police arrived, they discovered Lane was armed with three knives, a length of wire and a martial arts throwing star. In the cab of his truck was a DVD titled "Hunting Humans," about a serial killer.
January 2008–? A man, known colloquially (and nauseatingly) as "The Georgetown Cuddler" enters the rooms of women, often through unlocked doors, climbs into their beds, and sexually assaults them.

January 20, 2008: Brianna Denison is abducted from a friend's apartment. Denison's body was found February 16, 2008 and serial rapist James Michael Biela was arrested the following November. Investigators found Denison's blood on a pillow in the apartment where she had been sleeping, and also found that a sliding glass door was unlocked. Biela is currently awaiting trial.

September 29, 2009: From Mountain View Voice: "Early Tuesday morning a 37-year-old woman was awakened from her sleep by a burglar who proceeded to restrain her before robbing her home."

October 9, 2009: George Washington University police arrest a male student suspected of sexually assaulting female students. After getting access to the building from another student, he entered dorm rooms through unlocked doors. I'll be honest: I forgot to lock my dorm room door in college more than once.

October 11, 2009: A man enters by way of an unlocked door and steals "numerous items including textbooks, musical equipment and electronics" in St. Cloud, Minn.

October 14, 2009: Dominique Parrott, 13, is arrested. Parrott is suspected of robbing apartments. He gained access through unlocked windows.

In your defense: 1) Serial killer Richard Ramirez unlocked doors to enter them, and was undone when he hopped into an unlocked Ford Mustang. Owner Faustino Pinon was under the car (!) but managed to stand up, reached through the window, and grab Ramirez around the neck (!). The struggle led to a pursuit and eventual capture. 2) People break into homes all the time! 3) The doors in Elizabeth Smart's home were all locked. 4) You're more likely to be harmed by someone you know!

Note: I found a lot of crazy, hateful, racist Web sites devoted to "following" crime committed by non-white people. If you link to any of those sites in the comments I will delete your comment. I don't think you will, of course, but it's always good to put that out there, right?

Additional Resources:
2006 Richmond spree murders Wikipedia article

Richard Chase Wikipedia article
Hopkins Community Grieves Student Murder, Johns Hopkins Magazine
FBI makes a connection between long-haul truckers, serial killings, The L.A. Times
Georgetown "Cuddler" Does More Than Cuddle, The Sexist
Burglar enters through unlocked door
, St. Cloud Times
Murder of Brianna Denison Wikipedia article
Kidnapped While She Slept
, People
Unlocked door lets burglar in, Mountain View Voice
Downtown Manhattan Pillaged By Pint-Sized Perps, Gothamist
G.W. Catches Dorm Sexual Assailant Suspect, The Sexist

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