The only thing Diane Williams saw after a noise woke her in the middle of the night Wednesday was the silhouette of a man rummaging through her dresser.
The 65-year-old Jamestown resident said that in her sleepy state she first thought it was her son who lives in Southern California. But she realized something was very wrong when the man turned around and pointed a red-lens flashlight at her.
“I just started yelling,” Williams said.
The man bolted out the front door and Williams ran to shut it behind him. She rushed back to check on her husband, Roland, who suffers from a disease similar to Parkinson’s that makes it hard for him to move, and realized she forgot to lock the door.
Williams heard the man come back in through the front door, so she started yelling again and he quickly left. She ran back to lock it and called the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.
The dispatcher stayed on the line with her until Sheriff’s deputies arrived. She said they were there for about an hour-and-a-half checking the house and helping her take an inventory of missing items.
The burglar had thoroughly searched the couple’s house and stole a laptop computer and jewelry given to Williams by her deceased mother.
Williams said the deputies told her the suspect may have re-entered the house to grab something he left behind that could have identified him. The only description Williams could give was that he was about 6 feet tall, 250 pounds and wearing a baseball cap.
“I’ve always worried because we’re getting older and more vulnerable,” she said. “I keep my doors locked all the time, not just at night.”
The couple’s Rolling Oaks Drive residence is currently for sale, and it appeared the burglar gained access by stealing and breaking into the lockbox containing the key used by real estate agents showing the house to potential buyers.
Pam Schultz, the couple’s agent, said she has never heard of someone breaking into a lockbox before in the county. She said the high-tech lockboxes are generally very secure.
“We’ve never had an incident where someone used a lockbox key,” she said.
The only way to gain access to the box, other than completely destroying it, is by using an electronic key and punching in an approval code automatically changed daily accessible only to the realtor listing the residence, Schultz said.
Only members of the Tuolumne County Association of Realtors have access to the system and codes, she said.
“My first concern was that my client is OK, but I also don’t want people to be alarmed,” Schultz said. “It’s a very safe system and this is an unusual circumstance.”
Sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Wilson said he hasn’t heard of a case in which someone has broken into the lockbox of a house that was for sale.
He said its also fairly uncommon for burglars to enter homes when they know the residents are inside and its possible the suspect thought it was vacant because it was for sale.
Investigators haven’t identified any suspects, and anyone with more information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 533-5815.
The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office last week warned area residents about a rising number of burglaries.
Sheriff Jim Mele also recently hosted two town hall meetings where he addressed the issue and advised residents to take precautions and report any suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.