Baton Rouge police probe home invasions targeting women

A 70-year-old Baton Rouge woman awoke in the middle of the night to find a man dressed in black crouching near her bed. She tried to run, but he grabbed her, groped her and attempted to rob her before fleeing her home near Goodwood Boulevard early Thursday morning.

The terrifying encounter marked the fourth such home invasion in the past week reported by Baton Rouge police, who have enlisted police dogs, night-time helicopter surveillance and countless street patrol officers to help catch the man or men responsible for the recent crop of break-ins, Chief Carl Dabadie said Friday during a press conference.

Dabadie issued a succinct warning to women across the parish, especially those living alone: “Don’t trust anybody. Only trust the people that you know.”

The first two reported break-ins happened Jan. 12, one in the area of Goodwood Boulevard and another near Glen Oaks Drive. The third took place Jan. 14 in the area of Webb Park and the fourth happened Friday morning in the Sherwood Forest subdivision around 2 a.m., police said.

Police have not released the exact locations of the home invasions in an effort to protect the victims. Police said three of the victims are women in their 70s, the other is a 34-year-old woman.

There are several common threads among the four reported incidents: A man about 6 feet tall and dressed in black broke into a home in the middle of the night, confronting a woman living alone. In three of the cases, the intruder groped the victims before leaving, police said.

The intruder, who at this point could be one man or several different men, entered the homes through an unlocked window or door in at least three of the break-ins.

“There is a pattern,” said Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman.

The sexual batteries did not progress to rape in any of the cases, and none of the women have reported seeing any type of weapon during the home invasions, McKneely said.

Chief Dabadie said Friday that residents should not be afraid, but they should be alarmed. Everyone, especially elderly women or women who live alone, should take safety precautions, not just at home but also while out running errands.

Lock doors and windows, alert police to anything suspicious and watch out for friends and neighbors, police warned.

“We’re relying on the community,” McKneely said.

At least one local community activist who blogs about crimes in the area of Webb Park has alerted residents to the string of home invasions.

Aaron Martinez, the blog’s author, provided several safety tips to his readers, including one he said worked for his grandmother years ago: “If you discover someone in your home, scream out a man’s name. Like ‘John, grab the gun.’ ”

Martinez said in an interview that the tactic might not always work, but it did for his grandmother after she woke up to a stranger on top of her.

Police have refused to go into detail about other incidents possibly related to the recent home invasions, although investigators are looking into any recent cases which may be related.

In Friday’s home invasion, the 70-year-old woman was pulled from her bed by her ankle before fighting off the invader. And in one of the break-ins, a woman was blindfolded, McKneely said.

Martinez, the blogger and a resident of the area, said he spoke with the Jan. 14 Webb Park area victim, a 73-year-old woman who described an intense struggle between herself and the intruder before he eventually fled.

“He picked the wrong woman to mess with,” Martinez said.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, State Police and agencies in other parishes are assisting in the broad investigation, police said.