Crime

The Night I Had to Save Our Lives

Tallulah had been whining, she was running from one window to the next and I heard my roosters stirring. It’s a sound that I hear a lot when something is trying to eat them. The scuttle of feathers and wings slapping together… it was nothing new. The hair on Tallulah’s back stood up, but no alarm bells rang in my head because we live among bears. So I let the dogs out to make noise, to sound threatening. If I had decided not to let them out, Tallulah would have pestered me until I caved. She would run to me, then to the door, then back to me again like always.

Nikolai and I did our usual routines. We were in bed by 7:30 PM because it was a school night, but I couldn’t sleep for some reason. I stayed up laughing at videos posted on Facebook and browsed the headlines. It was around 11:30 pm by the time I had decided to let the dogs out and it was as dark outside as it normally is. No lights flashing through the darkness, just the wind slapping gently on tree branches. I was finally feeling the full effects of exhaustion and my chest had been aching but I planned on letting the dogs back in again before going to sleep, so I closed the the door but I left it unlocked. I- left-the-door-unlocked.

I had dozed off in the middle of a TikTok video and woke sleepily when I heard Tallulah and Moose barking like crazy. I smirked before tucking my phone underneath my pillow and drifting back to sleep again. I figured they had something cornered out there and were on the brink of annihilation. The last peaceful thought that I had that night was that my chickens were safe due to the watchful eye of my amazing dogs. When I woke up again, it was to the sound of Tallulah’s feet pounding on the floor throughout my house. Down the hallway she galloped and right into my bedroom. I felt disoriented and I was trying to connect the conscious thoughts together that were swirling around in my head as she launched her body on top of mine.

I was lecturing Tallulah on her etiquette while loving on one of her ears with one hand and simultaneously fumbling to grab my glasses and locate my cell phone with the other. I wanted to see what time it was. That’s the moment I realized… I wasn’t the one who let the dogs in. It took a second to grasp the weight of it, but the feeling that something was horribly wrong crept over my body like ice. I tried to rationalize with myself that perhaps Tallulah had gotten the door open on her own somehow but I knew that just wasn’t possible. I had to get up and I HAD to get to my firearm as quickly as possible.

After mashing my glasses onto my face, I sat up in bed and hit the button on the side of my phone that illuminated the room. I glanced over at Nikolai (who always sleeps on daddy’s side of the bed when my husband isn’t home) to check on him. To my horror there stood a man wearing a dark blue hoodie pulled down over his face who was looming over my sleeping son. My ability to scream was tangled in my throat. I tried to adjust my eyes to the light and reason with my brain that the man had to be my husband. Who else would let themselves into a house that wasn’t their own? Who else would stand over a sleeping child and his mother in the middle of the night? I was forced to face a sickening reality when I discovered that this man’s skin color and my husband’s were not the same.

Shock and terror overtook my limbs as they shook with what felt like chills running though me. My body pumped adrenaline into my chest with every thundering heart beat. This was real. This was happening and it was happening to me. Every mother’s worst nightmare was my waking reality, my child was between me and this man rather than the other way around.

My ability to safely retrieve my firearm had been cut off. It was too late because it sat in the safe on my husband’s side of the bed between my son and the intruder. I had forgotten to move it over to my nightstand after my husband left and if I managed to get to it, there was a good chance that my son would have been in the way or it could have been taken from me. I was sitting in bed wearing only my T-shirt and a pair of panties while gawking at this man who was standing in my bedroom over my child.

Did he want to kill us? Was he here to take my son from me? Rape me? Steal from us? I didn’t know but I felt like I had to cover myself and I had to save my sleeping son who was waking up. My number one priority was to position myself between him and Nikolai, and then fight my way out of it to protect us. There was no other option. My husband was taking a call for a helicopter that was down in a city on the other side of Atlanta, there was nobody else here to save us. I had to save us. “I HAVE TO SAVE US!” was the thought that I was screaming in my brain even though I had yet to find my voice to speak.

I leapt from my bed and shrieked “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! GET OUT NOW! GET OUT!”

I searched in the dark for something to cover my bare legs with while the figure made his way down the hallway. Tallulah who was sitting on my bed, came to realize that all of her service dog training that I had drilled into her head to be accepting of strangers was now void. As I wrestled to put pajama bottoms on and race down the hallway after the stranger, she was hot on my heels. We made our way into the living room where the man stood. I had hoped I scared him off but I was wrong. He wasn’t leaving and I could smell the heat of alcohol on his breath.

“I crashed my car into your creek.” his words slurred together so that I barely made out what he was saying.

“There is absolutely nothing you can say that would excuse the fact that I woke up to you standing in my bedroom over MY son. GET OUT!”

“I got lost. I crashed my car.”

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”

He walked onto the porch and stood there, the glass door some-what between him and myself but largely agape.

I clutched my cell phone like a weapon and tried to call my neighbor with the volume on low so the man couldn’t hear and then sent her an SOS in text:

Send your husband.”

“ASAP.”

“Gun.”

“Get a gun. help.”

“Hurry.”

“Run.”

I once saw an ambulance search for a man who needed medical attention off of my dirt road. They never found him and he died of a heart attack. I knew that my neighbor was a lot closer than any police officer would be so she was my first call and my first text while I occupied the man in the blue hoodie with conversation. Talking my way out of it was the only option I had, he was twice my size and I had to protect my son at all cost.

“You know your dogs allowed me to let them inside your house right?” he slurred some more.

“They let me let them in… you can trust me. I can come in.”

“I would never trust someone that I caught leaning over my son in my bedroom in the middle of the night. I have no idea who you are but you’re not coming back into my house.”

“Your dogs wont bite. I pet them earlier.”

“You want to make a bet?” I taunted, I could hear Tallulah snarling at my side a deep growl rattled her chest.

“I need a phone. Give me your phone.” he demanded as he reached in to grab my phone from out of my fingers. Thankfully Tallulah took this opportunity to lunge forward placing herself between him and I while biting towards the hand grasping the other end of my cell phone. Her warning made him recoil from taking my phone from me and also stopped his attempt to get back inside my house.

If he had gotten a hold of my phone and taken it from me and if my neighbor hadn’t gotten my message due to a lack of cell reception… then no one would have been available to help us. My cell phone was the only lifeline I had to protect my son and I. By this time Nikolai was awake and sobbing in the bedroom because he heard everything, right down to Tallulah snapping at the stranger within our walls. I had yelled at him to stay put, to hide and to not come out no matter what.

The man still stood there on my porch in a stand-off with Tallulah and I.

“Where is YOUR phone?” I asked shakily.

“I lost it in your creek.”

“What’s your number? I’ll call it for you so you can find it.” I had no intention of sitting around to help him find his phone. I knew that he was drunk and that a ringing phone may draw him away from the house so I could close the door and lock it without being overpowered. He rattled off the numbers and I was pretty sure I got them wrong because I couldn’t understand him but I called it anyway.

He left my porch to look for his phone and the moment his feet touched earth my front door was slammed and locked behind him. I hung up my call and dialed 911. As suspected the 911 dispatcher as well as the police couldn’t locate our road. I grabbed my son from my bedroom and forced him to lock himself in the bathroom while I pulled my firearm and loaded a round into the chamber.

I can’t tell you how many times I practiced shooting scenarios in the woods at home. I had drills on pulling my firearm from my holster with the prayer that I would never have to use it on animals or people. The last time I shot at something other then a target was last summer when I saw a snake messing with one of our cats. I couldn’t tell if it was poisonous or not at the distance I was positioned, but once my cat ran off I aimed for it’s head anyway because it was coiled up where my son liked to play. My husband is rarely home to help me with these things so I’ve learned how to take care of myself.

I got my conceal carry license a couple of years ago. I woke up one morning and I decided that my safety was my own responsibility. Especially when you live way back in the woods like I do and you’re on your own a lot with a baby who relies on you. It was important to learn how to protect us and I practiced this skill weekly on our little farm (and still do). I know my Glock as if it were an extension of my limbs. Other than petty crimes and random drug users… my town has 750 people in it and is far safer than most. It’s easy to get complacent, to feel like this kind of thing will never happen to you. Suddenly you realize too late that you’ve made a mistake or two. Like not having your bedside safe in it’s usual place, and not locking the door because you dozed off.

Yet once that round was loaded and I was on the phone with 911, I felt safer than I had since I found the blue hooded man standing over my son at 1 AM. In the middle of trying and failing to give directions to the police, the man came back and was standing on my porch. My neighbor had texted me that she too was on the phone with 911. Her husband had tried to keep eyes on the guy in the hood but the stranger took off. Nikolai was screaming and hyperventilating in the bathroom. I could hear him sobbing while begging to be let out and praying I was okay.

The man was pounding his fist on my front door. I held my gun where he couldn’t see it below the glass window and kept it pointed directly at him. I told the dispatcher that I was armed and I knew that if he broke through my front door, I intended to fire. My mind was made up and it was the most terrifying moment of life. I’m a vegetarian. I love all living things. I believe in second chances and equality for all. I believe in kindness, but I would end my life if it meant allowing my son to live his.

I told the operator that the hooded man was trying to get back in. Through more slurred words behind my front door he didn’t ask but rather demanded to be allowed in from the cold.

Is your husband home? Where is your husband at?”

“That’s none of your business! GO SIT IN YOUR CAR.”

“It’s cold out here! You’re going to let me in RIGHT NOW to warm up.”

“I’m not opening this door. I’m not an idiot. Go wait in your car for the police.”

“You called the cops?! OH SHIT!!” Down my steps, across the lawn and into the darkness he ran.

It took a while for the police to find us, my nerves were shot by the time they arrived and arrested the stranger who broke into my house. Four or five cop cars lined my dirt road and some officers arrived on foot. The hooded man didn’t live in my town, in fact he lived almost an hour away. I had never meet him before. Police corroborated his story through his text messages that he had intended on hooking up with a woman he meet online at her place on the other side of my little town.

His cell phone fell between his drivers seat and the center console while he was driving. It was Valentines Day night and he later told one of the detectives that he had stopped drinking at 6 pm. A whole 7 hours prior to him being arrested with the smell of alcohol on his breath outside of my home. A bottle of booze rolled out of his car and landed in my creek while his vehicle was being searched by officers. In the week that followed, I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the bottle. A storm rolled in and the flood of rain water in my creek washed the bottle away. The only thing I felt about it was relief.

He told detectives several lies, the first being that he wasn’t drunk by the time he arrived to my house. The second lie being that when I asked him to leave my house that he did so immediately (my call to 911 thankfully backed me up). When I went out to speak with the officers, the man’s car had run over the culvert to my creek but was in no way submerged. His drivers side was easily accessible. The blowers in his car were still running and were blowing out warm air. I could feel and hear them as I walked by and I remembered him trying to convince me to let him into my house to get warm.

One detective felt that perhaps the man was mentally off. The hooded man claimed to have knocked on my door before entering. He meet Tallulah and Moose who seemed friendly and upon not getting a response… he let himself in. He admitted to that much while being interviewed. He walked through the entire length of my house to get into my bedroom. Not once did I hear a knock or hear someone cry out. I had been teaching Tallulah to be more accepting of strangers and she did exactly as she had been taught to do, up until she realized that the situation was all wrong. My pounding heart beat and the smell of fear flipped a switch in her that gave him a reason to think twice about re-entering my house. If she hadn’t stepped in, I wouldn’t have been able to call for help since he grabbed my phone and tried to take it from me with force.

It’s possible that he was mentally off and for that reason, I’m thankful my firearm was out of reach and we all walked away alive. Yet the little things he lied about ate away at me all week long. My son was traumatized. He had a panic attack after the incident because I was going to look for his jacket for school without him and he was afraid to be left alone. He hid when Izzy came to the door later in the week to see us, and he ask me to hold his hand while we walked to lock the door together. He struggled with some nightmares, but most of it seems like it’s finally beginning to ease up. I had to notify the school about what happened in case he tried to talk about it (which he did). He told a little friend about the bad man in our house, was called a liar by his friend, and came home in tears. I tried to reassure him that to most people… the event sounds unbelievable.

I felt like I was living someone else’s life. I sobbed in front of more strangers than I care to admit. I drove myself to see a therapist and broke down in the car before making it to her office door. I’ve had more panic attacks the past two weeks than I’ve ever had in all the years I’ve been struggling with my health. I had a panic attack when a man wearing a hoodie crossed in front of my car at a stop sign. I had a panic attack when I parked away from all the other cars in a parking lot and a stranger darted by my car and ran into the woods on a walking path. I’ve dreamt vivid and violent dreams which is unusual for me.

It took me a long time to be able to sit down and write about what happened to us two weeks ago. Upon typing the first few paragraphs I was shaking so hard that I slammed my computer shut and left the draft unfinished. On week one I couldn’t stop talking about it because it was all I could think about. On week two I was having a hard thinking about it after anyone talked about it. The flip in how I felt was bizarre. I’m still flinching over unexpected visitors. I don’t sleep until I’m too exhausted to stay awake or force myself to sleep by taking a sleep aid. Every sound has my eyelids flying open and I relive it again and again while triple checking that the door I know I locked is truly… locked.

Last night I dreamt that instead of a hooded figure, it was a bear looming over my son. I had to chase him out of my house, it ripped someone to pieces, and I was forced to shoot it to death. I woke up drenched in my own sweat this morning. I have gone over the story with friends and family members as well as police and detectives multiple times. I was victim shamed on Facebook in both public and private messages with lists of things people would have done differently or better. I was told by multiple people to “just teach my son not to touch guns and leave the weapon sitting out.” Which is some of the most ignorant parenting advice I’ve ever read. I will never feel guilty about locking up my firearm because kids are kids and they make mistakes too.

Someone also said something along the lines of “Well, at least he didn’t steal anything.” Except that he did. He took my peace of mind, my sense of security, and my ability to feel safe. I don’t know when I’ll ever feel normal again. The messages have died down, I’m still consulting with the DA and the state is working on filing charges. I’m not thrilled with how some things have been handled there either. As far as I’m aware, no breathalyzer was done. No drug testing, no DUI is being filed. They never got his license and car insurance information, they never made any kind of an accident report so that I could get the property damage fixed. The man made bail the next day and I’m left wondering… if he can lie, what else is he hiding?

Meanwhile I’m seeing a therapist and trying to find my way back to happiness. Some days I just don’t feel like myself at all. What I know for certain, is that I still love where I live. My home in the woods is still my haven, I’d have to be dead for him to have taken that away from me and thankfully Nikolai feels that way too. I’m not okay today… but maybe I’ll be okay tomorrow.

*100% True story, took place on 2/15/22 at around 1:00 AM

Taken while driving home one night.
I took this image as police searched his vehicle while it was still sitting in my driveway.

49 thoughts on “The Night I Had to Save Our Lives”

  1. I cant even fathom the terror you felt. The aftermath is worse since you relive over and over the “what if or should have I” questions. My heart goes out to you and your family. Don’t let those that would tell you what you should have or shouldn’t have done make you question what you did. You did what you did because of the options available and you and your child are alive today. Other people think they know what they would do or what someone else should do. They….Dont….!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a traumatic event!!! I’ve never had anything that scary ever happen. To be awakened by a stranger standing inside one’s house has to be one of our worst fears.

    People can be such idiots on Facebook and be incredibly insensitive and judgmental. Your story is a lesson to all of us to be more compassionate and understanding because we don’t know what others are going through. Then to judge you or your actions is despicable. I hope that the nightmares stop and that both you and your son can find peace over time. In reading your chilling story, I put myself in the place of your husband and how hard it would be to know that his loved ones had gone through such a frightening experience. As I was reading this, I imagined it happened some time ago, and I was shocked to learn that this just happened to you.

    I’m not a psychologist, but I have to imagine that writing about this is a helpful and necessary step in helping you work through the trauma. I am so sorry, LaShelle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was helpful. I couldn’t sleep last night so I decided to revisit my laptop and try to finish what I started. I’ve posted the article in my conceal carry group for women and have had far more positive feedback as of today. It’s still very fresh for me and hard to grasp though. I hope it gets easier with time.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. There have been so many messages coming in today about women who experienced unthinkable events that they never thought would happen to them than it’s rather heartbreaking but also empowering that they found their way to handle it by protecting themselves and learning how to be responsible for their own safety.

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  3. Oh mama, I’m am so sorry for what he did and what he caused. Shameful. I’m so thankful that you both are safe and saying a prayer for the Lord to help you all heal. Thank you for being so brave to share your story, especially while it’s still so fresh. I know you’re helping so many other mamas like me to practice & prepare, just like you have. Very smart about the cell phone thing to create some distance. You are a hero, and your family is so blessed to have you as their mama bear.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That terror is like no other. We had a home invasion also but there was 3 gun welding men. My 2 little boys was in the same room with guns pointed at them because they knew any parent would comply at that point. It has been a long road and though you and your son are both alive and not physically damaged the mental is a whole other level. I felt a lot of what you have in the aftermath with panic attacks, night mares and covid started right after so everyone was wearing mask which is fine till people are using other things for mask that brings a panic attack like the hooded man did you at the crosswalk. It does get a little easier with time but even 2 years later and a different home and city it is still hard dealing with ptsd. My 7 year old who was 5 at the time still sleeps in my bed due to his ptsd is hard to help when he does in fact know that monsters are real and can come threw your front door. It’s hard but each day will bring a little more peace.

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    1. Oh wow Rhonda! I can’t even fathom your agony or your child’s! What a terrifying encounter. I’m so glad that all of you are focused on mending. I’m thankful that it wasn’t worse.

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  5. Wow LaShelle! I can’t believe something so traumatic happened to you! This is one of my worst nightmares! I see and read so many of these stories and they tend to end badly. That’s nuts! I am so glad you and your son are okay! You are so brave to have taken a stance and yelled at him to get out of your house! Someone else may not have been as brave (understandably) and the outcome might have been different.

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  6. What a harrowing story! Give yourself a lot of time to recover well enough to sleep. Same for your boy. I’m not sure that one “gets over it.” Our minds and bodies don’t forget that kind of trauma, it just gets integrated so we can go on with life, albeit while checking that the door is locked about a thousand times.

    I would never tell you what you should or shouldn’t have done because I wasn’t there. I wasn’t you with a small boy to protect. You know, there was a time when folks didn’t lock their doors. I’m old enough to remember those days. Or we’d leave the key in a place where anyone could find it … lol. You have every right to feel safe. Period. Just because your door was unlocked doesn’t mean someone has the right to walk in. An unlocked door is not an invitation. So the person to blame is the stranger, not you. You conducted yourself so well I hope you can take some pride in your fast thinking.

    I can’t tolerate guns. I don’t know why, especially since I grew up in a rural area where hunting was common, but the one time I saw a handgun, I got the shakes. So no guns in my house. But that’s just me. I respect your reasons for having a gun, more so because you make sure you know how to use it safely and you keep it secure. Children make mistakes but so do people. One shot and a person is dead. I’m glad you didn’t have to do that, but, goodness, I’m shocked that the police didn’t do more. If you smelled alcohol on the guy, then they must have too. At least you have the 911 call and your neighbors to back you up. Here’s hoping that stranger just avoids your area from now on.

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    1. I was really upset with how the police handled it myself. It says on their report that the arresting officers smelled alcohol as well. Im not sure why they never did a breathalyzer or drug tested him. Im still working on trying to recover. One day the nightmares are better and the next they are back with a vengeance. Thanks so much for your input ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my goodness, LaShelle! 😱😱😱 I can’t even imagine the sheer horror that coursed through your mind and body! I want you to know that you handled it the best way you knew how and that you’re a very brave woman and great mother. And the fact that the idiots on Facebook inserted their pathetic two-cents just makes my blood boil! 😡🤬It’s crazy how people who probably were never on their lives faced with what you faced that night like to give unsolicited advice! But you did the right thing, sweetie! And I’m especially proud of you for refusing to respond to the cyber-bullies who trolled you. I’m also proud of you for noticing the peaceful and happy moments that are starting to appear again. Continue to take care of yourself. Continue to love yourself. And know that I support you! God bless you! 💖💐🌺🕊

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    1. Thank you so very much for your thoughtful words. You have no idea how much they help. I’m really thankful to have found your blog and to have read such amazing advice. ❤️❤️‍🩹

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  8. This is terrifying, to say the least. I’m so glad that you and your son are okay physically. But I know it will take time to recover mentally.
    I sincerely apologize for what others have said to you. Just remember that they are projecting their anxieties and insecurities onto you. This is your path to healing. It doesn’t matter what it looks like to others; what matters is what it looks like to you.
    Sending you so much love and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a terrifying thing to happen! It is indeed every mother’s worse nightmare. I’m so impressed with how you handled yourself and I will pray that peace, in time, returns to you and your son.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh my goodness. What a nightmare!!!!!!! I hope you and your son get over this though I imagine it will take time. I’ve sometimes thought of what I would do in a situation like this, or in, say, a fire in my apartment. I feel safer in an apartment building because our door is just one among many – if I lived in a rural area, I would probably feel less safe. But then, rural life has its advantages: we have no garden, for example. Anyway, big hugs to you! You handled it very well!! I’m happy they caught the guy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! When I lived in Chicago, things like this happened to my friends and family members ALL the time. It doesn’t happen out here very often at all. Even the police officer at Nikolai’s school was talking to me about how very little crime we have out here and how unusual my situation was. I became the talk of the town ❤️

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  11. I’m sorry you had to go through that. Sometimes on late or sleepless nights, I wonder how I would react in a situation like that , and when my kids were younger and lived at home it crossed my mind even more often. Thank you for telling the story – a terrible experience but wonderful writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading it! It didn’t happen that long ago and that second link I sent you kinda ties everything up together- it’s interesting that so many of us feel as if this will never happen to them and when it does… I’ve heard of women who go from being anti-gun rights to buying their first weapon and learning how to shoot. We are all at the mercy of those around us. It only take one person’s life colliding with our own to change the course of our direction. I’ve had many people tell me what they would do in my situation and yet most have never been in such a position and those who have… they understand how much it changes them.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. That is a scary story! I grew up in a small town in the Catskills and often we would not lock our door. In Florida, I never forget and also know how to shoot a gun. I am glad you are okay. The only thing which has happened to us is a man jumped our fence our first years living here and took a divider from our garden. We caught him on camera and he was part of the neighborhood. He moved on but we never heard a thing in our back yard. Scary. Glad you are well and your son is well.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good luck with that. I could tell some funny stories about the Catskills and our NY visitors from the city, though but then again we were the city folk settling in the mountains.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I can’t even imagine what I would do in the same situation, LaShelle. My goodness. You were very brave in face of it all. I hope you will find your inner peace again. Don’t let him keep it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This happened earlier this year in February ❤️. We’re still awaiting his trial. He pled not guilty unfortunately and they dropped some of the most important charges. I’m praying he gets jail time but we’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I saw that (date). It must be so frustrating when we feel they don’t handle a case like this appropriately. He probably won’t but let us hope he keeps far away.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I saw him at the arraignment. He didn’t recognize me I don’t think. He was fuming with anger over the burglary charge. His mother and brother was there as well and they were talking loudly and raging about some of the charges. It was horrible to listen to him justify what he did and be so disrespectful about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I hope he doesn’t… or remember where this all took place. Of course his family will be on his side no matter what. Nothing worse than being caught doing something wrong. They can’t call it breaking and entering because the door was unlocked? It should apply regardless… Ugh.

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