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Victims say $2,000 worth of goods taken in Mont Valla home invasion

July 13, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Homes in the 300 block of South Mont Valla Avenue in Hagerstown are shown Wednesday.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Devin Mills said he was playing video games with a house guest when they heard a knock on the front door shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday.

No one was there when they first opened the door of the two-story duplex at 320 S. Mont Valla Ave., the 19-year-old Mills said. But a few seconds later, an intruder barged in with a knife.

He was followed quickly by five other men.

"I was just caught like a deer in the headlights," Mills said.

The intruders forced Mills and his friend, DeShaun Smith, 22, of Hagerstown, to sit on the kitchen floor. They said they didn't resist in case one of the men had a gun.

Mills and Smith said the home invaders demanded marijuana almost immediately after they came through the door. When the two said they didn't have any drugs, the robbers began to loot the house.

The intruders made off with numerous items, including two flatscreen televisions, a PlayStation 3, an Xbox and a laptop computer.

"They cleaned up," Smith said. "It was well planned. It had to be someone ... who knows someone in this house."

Smith said the robbers wore shirts tied around their faces. He estimated all of the men were in their early- to mid-20s.

"They probably stole $2,000 worth of stuff," Smith said.

Smith said that he and Mills called the Hagerstown Police Department as soon as the intruders left.

Corine Betts, 16, said she was watching movies in her house across the street Wednesday morning when the home invasion occurred.

"I heard yelling and stuff, but I didn't see anything," she said.

Betts said the neighborhood is typically quiet except for a rare argument between neighbors.

Barbara McClay, 65, said she disagreed.

McClay, who has lived off and on in the neighborhood since 1952, said the problems started on South Mont Valla Avenue about 15 years ago when developers built rental properties on the street.

She said she no longer knows her neighbors because they're there for only a few months before they move on.

McClay said that not too long ago, someone broke into an abandoned house next to hers and started living there. She said thieves also have stolen copper from another vacant house on the street.

"I've never had to live under lock and key before," she said. "You don't feel safe anymore. I know of five neighbors who have security cameras now."

McClay said her dogs started to bark at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, but she didn't know what happened until she looked outside and saw police cars parked on the street.

"My relatives want me to get out of here," she said. "Up until recently, it was a nice neighborhood. You didn't have people taking our parking places. You didn't have people walking through your yards. It's not the same."

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said he wouldn't talk about the details of Wednesday's home invasion because the case was under investigation.

Many home invasions are drug related, Smith said. Robbers typically break in to get drugs, money and weapons.

"They're less likely to report it to police," he said. "They don't want to bring attention to themselves. A lot of the ones we hear about have never been reported. We hear about them through informants."

Smith said home invaders commonly know their victims, but that isn't true in some cases.

"I would make sure you know who you open your door for at any time," he said. "If it doesn't make sense, I wouldn't open the door."

Wednesday's incident marked the second home invasion in Washington County in two weeks.

On July 1, two people knocked on a door then forced their way into a home in the 700 block of Interval Road east of Hagerstown. They held four people at gunpoint before getting away with cash, credit cards and wallets.

One of the alleged robbers, Clarence Dewayne Ferguson, 37, of 222 W. Franklin St., Apt. 2E, was charged in connection with the robbery.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said Wednesday that the second suspect in the home invasion on Interval Road had not been caught.

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What to do if you are a victim of home invasion

What to do during a home invasion, according to police:

  • Stay calm.
  • Don’t resist.
  • Get a description of the intruders.
  • Listen for their names.
  • If possible, observe the direction in which they flee.
  • Call police immediately after the intruders leave.
  • Cancel credit cards if they are stolen.
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