One Tuesday afternoon last June, Donna heard a noise that sounded as if someone had come over her backyard fence. Her dogs heard the noise, too. “The dogs started going crazy,” she said. “I was upstairs, looking out a window, directly above the dog door.” She peered downward and saw a man’s legs and shorts.
“He was in the dog door — his upper torso,” Donna said later.
“I yelled at him.”
In court, Donna claimed she couldn’t remember what she yelled. “Probably it wasn’t very nice.” But the man obviously heard her.
“He pulled himself out of the doggie door,” Donna said. “He stood up and ran the other way.” Donna said the intruder jumped over the backyard gate. “I ran out the front door after him. Chased him down the street.”
A petite, mature woman, Donna does not look like a competition runner. But she sized up the tall, youthful trespasser and took off after him. The fearless female surely knew how to use her voice.
“And then the neighbor came out with a phone, and he was on 911.” Donna borrowed the cell phone to speak with the emergency operator.
The intruder stopped to talk to a man in a nearby car. “He ran up to a Yukon,” Donna said. “It was somebody parked on the cul-de-sac.”
The intruder had a quick conversation with the driver of the bronze-colored Yukon, “and then he kept running.
“And so I was yelling and chasing him.” Donna ran up to the Yukon to ask the driver if he knew the man. The Yukon driver said no, but when Donna asked him to wait for police, the man in the Yukon drove off. Before the car disappeared, Donna read the license-plate number to the emergency operator.
Carlsbad police officer Richard Riggin responded to the hot-prowl radio call.
About the same time, not far away, a married couple phoned police to report that a man had just run into their home. He’d asked the startled couple if he could use their phone to call for a ride. When the man of the house said he was going to call police first, the stranger ran away. The general description of this intruder matched that of the doggie-door man.
In less than an hour, Carlsbad police had two “suspicious persons detained.” One was 19-year-old John Clayborne Kerr, 6 foot 3 inches tall and 190 pounds. Records revealed that police had stopped the bronze-colored Yukon in the area before, and John Clayborne Kerr had been driving the vehicle then.
Officer Riggin noticed that Kerr was wearing Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers. Riggin said that he recognized the brand because he had a pair himself. Police officers had found and photographed shoe prints on top of a new trash can pushed up to Donna’s fence. The prints had been made by Chuck Taylors.
After a short time in custody, the suspects gave statements, each implicating the other, according to Officer Riggin.
A hearing for John Clayborne Kerr was held in San Diego’s North County Superior Court on July 25. Privately retained defense attorney James Dicks attempted to suppress incriminating statements made by Kerr, citing what Dicks stated was an imperfect Miranda warning by Officer Riggin. Judge Harry Powazek denied the request.
Dicks cross-examined Donna, who described what she’d seen that afternoon, on June 12. Dicks asked her to draw a diagram of her home, detailing the location of the doggie door and the windows on the back of her house. He asked her about the patio cover above the doggie door. But the experienced attorney knew to retreat when Donna assured him that she could clearly see the stranger through the slats of the patio cover.
Judge Powazek ordered Kerr to answer charges of first-degree burglary and unauthorized entry of a home. ■