From the Sea Coast Online of January 29, 2009
Kennebunk homeowners thwart would-be burglars by scolding, firing a shotgun
Quick thinking on the part of a Heath Road couple kept what police say was a late-night burglary at their home from turning into a tragedy.
The frightening ordeal began around 1:30 a.m. Saturday when Judie Martel awoke to hear pounding on her front door.
"My first thought was, 'Is that thunder?'" she said. "The windows were rattling."
Running from the couch where she had fallen asleep watching TV, Martel arrived at the door in time to see it splinter and a strange man step through.
"He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him," Martel said.
She described the intruder as "baby-faced" and "out of it," and said she did the first thing that came to mind: she scolded him.
"I said, 'It's 2 o'clock in the morning! You need to go home to bed!'" she said. "I scolded him like a mother would."
Then she pushed him back out the door and closed it as best she could.
Looking out the window, Martel could see the man had what she described as a bag of tools with him. And instead of going home, he was headed around to the attached barn.
"I knew the kitchen door was unlocked," she said. "So I had to decide if I should run and lock it, or go get my husband."
Martel decided to head upstairs and wake her husband, John. Her next priority was calling 911.
John Martel had slept through everything up until that point.
"I'm a Vietnam vet, so I sleep with a white noise machine," he said. "When she woke me I grabbed my shotgun and the one shell I keep in the house."
Running out the kitchen door, John Martel saw that the man had broken into the barn and was heading toward the house. When the man saw John raise the gun, he turned to run.
"I was going to shoot to kill," Martel said. "But I've had enough of killing. I shot over his head and he ran up the road."
Shortly after, officers from the Kennebunk Police Department arrived on the scene and the man, Sean Barker, 24, of Richmond, was arrested.
Police said the man was attempting to enter a nearby Summer Street residence when they found him.
Kennebunk police called in the Maine State Police and a K-9 unit from Wells, which quickly located a backpack, according to Kennebunk's Lt. Tony Burpee. Police found an ID for a second man spotted tracks in the snow leading.
At the same time, Burpee said, several residents nearby had called 911 to report two men running through the woods behind their homes.
Officers followed the tracks back to a Summer Street residence where they discovered Eric Wallace, 22, of Topsham, Burpee said. Police said the house belonged to Wallace's mother.
The two men had been drinking to celebrate Barker's 24th birthday, Burpee said, and claimed they had mistaken the Heath Road house for Wallace's mother's Summer Street home.
But Burpee said it was clear there was no case of simple mistaken identity.
John Martel said it was clear from the footprints in the snow that both men had circled the homes on either side of them before deciding on his home.
"The other two have alarms," he said, believing his un-alarmed house looked like an easier target. He called the alleged would-be burglars "pros."
"They had a tool bag," he said, adding that Barker used a tool to cut through the wood of the door, "and a big, huge backpack to put stuff in."
Burpee said both men also had police records.
Barker had a 2007 conviction for theft in Livermore Falls, he said.
Wallace faced several theft convictions out of the Bath/Brunswick area in 2005, Burpee said, including burglary of a motor vehicle and a conviction for allowing a minor to possess or consume alcohol.
Burpee said Wallace also had a 2006 conviction for unlawful furnishing of a scheduled drug.
Both men were on Saturday charged with one count of felony burglary and sent to York County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail each. Both are scheduled to appear in York County Superior Court in Alfred on March 9.
As for the Martels, they've since had their door repaired and installed new deadbolts. The couple also is considering the installment of an alarm system, guard dog or both, Judie Martel said.
While both called their ordeal frightening, they said they learned a lot from the response from police.
"We couldn't ask for a more wonderful police station than we've got," John Martel said. "You don't know until something like this happens."
Judie Martel said she's trying to put the incident behind her, looking not at the crime itself but what she considers the positive outcome.
"We were very, very blessed," she said.
That's the social worker in his wife, John Martel said, always willing to believe the best of people. He's finding it hard not to imagine what could have happened, and the very different outcome they could've had.
"If they had harmed her," he said, "I wouldn't have shot in the air."