Home invasions not rising, authorities say

A shocking slaying and a rash of home invasions has raised fears among some Augusta-area residents, but law enforcement officials say there's no cause for alarm.

In June, seven home invasions were reported in Augusta; several more were reported outside the city.

However, Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Calvin Chew said the rate of such crimes is not increasing.

Numbers usually level out, according to Chew, and while some months have more home invasions than others, overall there isn't an upward trend. June's incidents were clustered together, but there is no reason to believe the cases are related.

In Burke County, Ralph and Trudie Gordon, both 82, were found dead in their home on Father's Day. GBI investigators estimate the deaths were the result of a home invasion two days before.

Tony O. Grubbs was arrested as a suspect in the deaths on June 22.

In Columbia County, Capt. Steve Morris could recall only two invasions this year.

Morris recalled one invasion in March but doesn't believe it was a "random act." Investigators believe it was possibly drug-related.

Columbia County's most recent incident on June 29 left one man shot in the arm, but no items were stolen from his Ridge Crossing apartment. Both the victim and the three suspects were taken into custody. Charges against the victim included possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, according to incident reports.

The bulk of Augusta's invasions, according to Chew, are drug-related.

"Sometime we know right off the bat," he said. "We can smell marijuana and we can see remnants of the drug in the house."

The difficulty is getting victims to admit drugs were a motive.

Chew said he rarely handles a case where a family experiences a random home invasion.

When it does happen, it's often a burglary attempt gone awry -- criminals burst in without knowing people are home.

The term "home invasion" doesn't even exist in the crime code, Morris said. It likely originated as common usage by police officers and media, similar to "carjacking."

Technically, carjacking should be referred to as highjacking, just as a home invasion should be referred to as burglary and additional charges, Morris said.

But frequently, any burglary involving violent crime can be labeled a home invasion and definitions can vary from station to station.

"Basically if they break into a home by force and commit a felony inside then it's a home invasion," Chew said.

Subjects usually enter the home after dark by kicking in a door and often a weapon is involved.

About 30 percent of victims are injured during a home invasion, Chew said, and rarely is anyone killed.

But it does happen. He recalled two deaths during home invasions in the past several years, one recently.

Lawanda Persons was shot to death May 15 after an invasion at 11th and D'Antignac streets. Police said there are currently no suspects in the Persons case.

The other death occurred in 2008 on Royal Street.

For concerned homeowners, law enforcement advised installing a peephole or alarm system and using caution about opening doors to strangers.

"A lot of times we find out after the fact that the victim or neighbor of the victim observed or heard suspicious activity and failed to report it," Morris said.

If you find yourself the victim in a home invasion, Morris advised to avoid leaving your residence with the suspect, such as going to an ATM or bank.

"At the same time, it's probably best to comply with their demands within reason to avoid physical injury or death," Morris said.

Home invasions in June

JUNE 3, 3 A.M., EAST TELFAIR STREET: Three armed suspects entered an apartment and began snooping. Six victims were there at the time. Before leaving empty-handed, the suspects made the male victims remove their pants.

JUNE 14, NOON, HILLCREST DRIVE, NORTH AUGUSTA: Two boys, ages 10 and 13, took shelter in a closet after a suspect kicked in the door.

JUNE 20, NINTH STREET, WAYNESBORO, GA.: Ralph and Trudie Gordon, both 82, were found dead in their home. Investigators think they were killed June 18.

JUNE 21, 2:45 P.M., BRAYTON STREET: A man and his elderly mother were asked for money after a suspect came into their residence. The man said he thought the invasion was related to a car he had been repairing.

JUNE 22, 3 A.M., OLD SAVANNAH ROAD: Two suspects demanded money and drugs from a man and woman in the home. Both suspects were armed but left without anything.

JUNE 22, 3:15 A.M., FOX TRACE: A victim struggled against two armed suspects and shots were fired into the bedroom wall. The suspects left with two cell phones.

JUNE 23, 6 A.M., MIKE PADGETT HIGHWAY: A woman woke to find a man in her home. The man raped her while holding a butcher knife to her neck. Brent Domeki Boone, 28, was later arrested and charged with burglary, rape and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

JUNE 24, 1:25 A.M., MURPHEY ROAD: Four residents were held at gunpoint. One victim was injured when he was struck with the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun. Suspects left with several electronics and $2,000.

JUNE 24, 1:30 A.M., SPIRIT CREEK ROAD, HEPHZIBAH: A man was shot in the neck after telling two suspects he didn't have any money. Suspects took $100 from the victim's pocket before leaving.

JUNE 29, 1:55 A.M., RIDGE CROSSING APARTMENTS, MARTINEZ: Two suspects wearing ski masks came in and shot a man in the arm. The suspects left without anything. Two suspects were arrested. The victim was also charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

JUNE 29, 8:59 P.M., DAHLIA DRIVE: Three suspects entered with a shotgun and demanded the victim lie still on the couch or he would be shot. They left with an Xbox gaming system with several games and a cell phone.

By the numbers

Richmond County home invasions since 2009:

January 2009: 0

February 2009: 2

March 2009: 2

April 2009: 2

May 2009: 2

June 2009: 1

July 2009: 0

August 2009: 3

September 2009: 4

October 2009: 1

November 2009: 2

December 2009: 0

January 2010: 0

February 2010: 0

March 2010: 2

April 2010: 3

May 2010: 2

Note: Home invasions are not classified on their own and definitions can vary, so numbers are only estimates.