The girl called her mother just before 10:30 a.m., saying she thought she heard something fall in the bathroom, but wasn't sure.
"I just told her to stay on the phone with me, and if she heard it again to call 911," she said.
Within the next minute, the 16-year-old girl was on the phone with dispatch as she hid under her bed in her locked room.
The men pried open the family's back door and another bedroom window, taking mostly electronics. When they got to the teen's bedroom, they found the door locked, heard a television and ran from the house.
Neighbor Randy Harris saw the men coming out the back door of the Johnstons' home, and chased them.
When Karen Johnston arrived, she pulled her daughter out through the bedroom window, fearing there might be strangers still in the house.
"As long as my daughter's OK, then everything will be OK," she said. "We just sat in the truck as the bloodhounds started to look for them."
The Aiken Bloodhound Tracking Team found the three men in the attic at 103 Dicks Court, less than a block from the Johnstons' home, said Troy Elwell, Aiken County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
The men were charged with grand larceny and second-degree burglary. The suspects were identified as:
- David Edwards Jr., 17, 400 block of Gregg Avenue, Aiken.
- Eugene Edwards, 22, 100 block of Dicks Court, Beech Island.
- Davashea Rhodes, 17, of the 3000 block of Mistletoe Avenue, Hephzibah.
Elwell said the men's arrest might be a break in a string of a half-dozen burglaries in the area in the past few months.
But investigators said they don't think the men are connected to a similar home invasion Tuesday in North Augusta.
A 13-year-old and 9-year-old hid in a closet at their home in the 1500 block of Ascauga Lake Road while the suspect burglarized the home.
"More home invasions are happening because more people are in the residence during the summer," Elwell said. "If they (burglars) knock on the door and no one answers, they assume no one's home."
Elwell said even if it's just children at home, they should tell the person at the door to leave. If they feel threatened, they should tell the person they're calling 911.
"Keeping a light or radio on will also make it look like someone was home," he said.
The sheriff's office also has a new program called "Stop and Think" to teach children basic home safety and how to handle an intruder. The program is available for neighborhood watch programs and will be taught in schools this fall.
To schedule a presentation, call (803) 593-9954, ext. 1320.