For the first time in months, Peter Robinson visited his Dewey Beach home Dec. 28, only to find that other people had been living in his oceanside Dagsworthy Avenue condo for quite some time.
“Luckily, they weren’t there when we showed up,” Robinson said.
Intruders had turned on the water and cranked up the heat, Robinson said, and left two air mattresses on the main floor, along with a pile of clothes, trash and children’s toys so large it filled two police vans.
“I think it was a child between the ages of 2 and 5 years old based on the scribblings on a notepad,” he said. “It looks like they had Christmas there. They dirtied every dish we own.”
Squatters also invaded the home of his neighbor, Jody Kane, Robinson said. “These people are so brazen they stole her dishwasher,” he said.
On Dec. 29, Kane said, she asked a friend to check on her condo after she learned what happened to Robinson’s home. The home appeared untouched, Kane said.
She learned squatters had been in her home when her husband met a locksmith there on Jan. 11 to have deadbolts installed. Although the home looked fine Dec. 29, she said she knew squatters had been there before Robinson discovered evidence of intruders in his home Dec. 28.
“The electric bill was so much higher because they had cranked it up to 80 degrees and turned on the water,” she said.
She also learned the squatters had stolen her Roku. She had earlier contacted a streaming service to dispute movies she hadn’t ordered that showed up on her bill, including the movie “Home Alone.”
Not only did they steal Kane’s dishwasher, she said, they cut an electric cable to get it out. Squatters left a stack of dirty dishes in the sink, a used washcloth in the shower, and stole all her bath towels.
“They took our coffeepot to Peter’s house,” Kane said. “I knew it was missing, and Peter said one matching its description was at his house. He thought it was theirs and had the police remove it.”
It didn’t appear the squatters used any of the home’s beds, Kane said.
“They had blow-up mattresses at Peter’s house,” she said. “I think they wanted to be able to make a quick exit. We didn’t leave much food there, but they did make pasta. They didn’t take my White Claw, so I know they don’t have good taste.”
Home & Boat Watchdog owner encounters intruder, calls police
After being notified about the squatters, Dave Koster, owner of Home & Boat Watchdog, said he was checking on a client’s home Jan. 12 when he saw someone who shouldn’t be there.
“I pulled in the parking lot and saw someone on the side of the house,” Koster said. “She walked into it, and I called the police and the homeowner. Just as she started to leave, the cops got there. They questioned her and arrested her.”
The condo had no visible damage, Koster said, but again, the heat was cranked up. “The police got fingerprints from the thermostat,” Koster said.
Koster said this was the first time he encountered an intruder during a house check. He said he followed industry best practices by not confronting the intruder himself; instead, he alerted the police, homeowner and the National Home Watch Association.
“I just did what I was supposed to do,” he said. “I was doing my job.”
Charges filed against one suspect, another is wanted
Dewey Beach Police Sgt. Cliff Dempsey said officers responded to Koster’s call about a suspicious person at a Bellevue Street address about 5 p.m., Jan. 12.
“Other burglaries have been reported in this area over the past week,” Dempsey said in a statement. “When the officers arrived, they were notified by a concerned citizen that a white female was trespassing at the property.”
Dempsey said officers made contact with Samantha Dinwiddie, 28, of Knoxville, Tenn., outside the residence. She was taken into custody, and charged with possession of marijuana and criminal trespass, Dempsey said.
Officers contacted the homeowner and were given permission to enter, Dempsey said, at which point they discovered someone had unlawfully been inside. Evidence was recovered from the residence, and this investigation is ongoing.
Dewey Beach Police are attempting to locate Robert Ciaraldi, 40, of Rehoboth, who is a suspect in other burglaries in the Bellevue Street area and is also wanted for violation of probation. Anyone who knows the whereabouts of Ciaraldi is asked to contact Dewey Beach Police at 302-227-1110 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 800-TIP-3333.