Police & Fire

Chatham Township Couple Gives First-Person Account of Break-in at Henry Drive Home; Offer Security Advice

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Thad and Janet Russell talk about the attempted burglary from the driveway of their home on Henry Drive in Chatham Township Credits: TAP Chatham
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Thad and Janet Russell stand in front of the front door the burglar broke down in entering their house on Tuesday while they were upstairs Credits: TAP Chatham
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The result of the forcible entry into the Russell home on Henry Drive Credits: TAP Chatham
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The scene of the 10 a.m. forced entry on Henry Drive in Chatham Township on Tuesday Credits: TAP Chatham
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The Russells put up Christmas decorations at their home on Henry Drive Credits: TAP Chatham
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CHATHAM, NJ - There was no way Thad and Janet Russell were going to let a would-be burglar ruin their holiday traditions.

That's why they were outside putting up Christmas decorations Thursday morning on the same front door that had been smashed in two days earlier.

"No rogue thug is going to change that," Janet Russell said. "I still feel secure. It was random, it was brazen. I was surprised by the brazenness of it. I would suggest my husband not tackle the guy the next time. It's still a safe town. The police have been amazing. He (her husband) slept like a baby. I didn't."

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The suspect had knocked in the front door of the Henry Drive residence on Tuesday at around 10 a.m. while the Chatham Township couple was still in their upstairs bedroom.

Thad Russell had confronted the man in the upstairs hallway and tried to grab him before he could flee. On his way to his car, the man claimed to have a gun.

"It really wasn't conscious or planned," Thad Russell said of the confrontation. "I went after him down the hall thinking it was one of my sons. You never think someone is breaking into your house. I put my arm over his shoulder and somehow we get to the bottom of the stairs. I wound up on the ground. He went fast, but he wasn't running. This was a pro, he was calm. I followed out halfway on the lawn and that's when he said he had a gun."

The Russells did get his hat and a pair of prescription sunglasses, which are being checked for DNA. The burglar did not get away with anything of value.

"We have a new and greater appreciation of our cops," Thad Russell said. "We have a really great police force and they're spending a lot of time and effort to get this guy."

The Russells believe that their home was a target because their older front door. The way it is made, there is only a thin piece of wood frame holding in the dead bolt. A newer door with a metal frame and a storm door are going to be installed soon.

The Russells were able to joke about the experience a few days after the fact. Thad Russell noted that his wife got very upset "because the police wouldn't let her tidy up before the forensics guys got here."

The Russells were asked a lot of questions about possible people who might want to break into their house and Janet Russell joked that she was insulted that no one asked if she was having an affair.

Thad and Janet Russell talk about the Tuesday morning burglary attempt at their home on Henry Drive

Below is the account posted on Facebook by Janet Russell and published here with her permission

Hi all. Unfortunately, we were the homeowners. We are ok and very appreciative of all the concern. I think was would be helpful is for me to share the details with all of you so we can all be safe. So here goes: 10 am I heard a sound and my dogs began to bark. My husband and I were up in our bedroom and the door was closed. My husband said he would go check. I was not concerned in that we have 4 grown sons and they stop in from time to time and have a key. My husband encountered a Hispanic male about 40 years of age, wearing loose clothing. He was about 5’10” and heavyset, about 240. The intruder was in the hallway outside of our bedroom.

The intruder turned to leave and told my husband to go back and that he had a gun. My husband started yelling, what are you doing here. My husband grabbed him from behind while on the stairs and they both fell. The intruder tried to punch at my husband and made contact but did not injure him. My husband was able to grab his baseball cap and sunglasses from the intruders face so hopefully the cops can get DNA. My husband followed him out the front door which had been literally kicked in despite being deadbolted and tried to get the license plate.

However, before the intruder jumped back into his car he grabbed the plate off the back of his car so my husband could not get the number. The car was a blue SUV. My husband thought it might be a Pacifica. Scary takeaways: guy kicks in door; hears dogs; and still proceeds. He is professional enough to have a license plate that can be easily removed. He bypasses a laptop sitting out in plain view and heads for the bedroom. The intruder does not seem to have any accent or broken English. I don’t believe he had a gun though he said he did. I think this is a professional and not some druggie. Let me know f you have any questions and please notify police if you saw anything.

Anyone who works for us or knows us is aware that we are retired and home all day. We also have 3 pit bulls who may or may not attack an intruder. They were in the bedroom at the time he broke through the front door. If he had opened the bedroom door, he may have been in for a rude surprise. This is what shocks and confuses me....he had to have heard the dogs barking and yet he still approached. I am sure if the dogs had been downstairs that it would have deterred him from getting into the front door at all. What is scary is that the police said an intruder can push through any door more than 5 years old even if it is deadbolted. It goes without saying that newer styled deadbolts have been installed and security system been ordered. Dogs will not be sleeping downstairs as well.

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