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Sacramento Woman Ignores Untrained Dog Who Tries to Warn of Home Invasion

Two report bizarre home invasion

Sacramento Bee -- Written by Christina Jewett -- November 19, 2004

Until a knife-wielding man looked up at Roberta Spencer through a skeleton mask - crouched in her garage - she never knew how her experience as a police dispatcher and a student of psychology would come in handy.

Well, she didn't know instantly. First, she ran. Then she reasoned that she was larger than the man, and that she should stop sprinting through her back yard away from him and talk things over.

What followed was a drug-motivated robbery-gone-wrong, lasting more than five hours, that spurred the Spencers to install a security system and left Citrus Heights police with a home-invasion robber on the loose.

Roberta Spencer, 46, a student and mother of two, and Charles Spencer, 55, a baker, are certain that the intruder was looking for "crank," a slang term for methamphetamine, and had the wrong house.

Sacramento sheriff's spokesman Sgt. R.L. Davis confirmed that the incident occurred last Friday beginning at 8 a.m. and said the intruder indicated that he was looking for drugs. Davis said he could not "look into things" about whether the Spencers were indeed mistaken targets of a drug-motivated robbery, but said officers found no drugs in the house.

Since then, Roberta Spencer has laughed about the assault. And cried and lain awake at night, as well.

It began when she walked from her house to the detached garage, carrying her Pomeranian, Suki. The dog was barking and Spencer assumed he smelled a cat.

"I was going to scare the cat," she said. "But I found a man crouched between the car and the stuff in the garage."

He wore a camouflage jacket, a mask with skeleton teeth at the bottom and gripped a knife, she said. "I turned around and started running," she said.

He chased. She said she realized that she wouldn't outrun him - but she did outweigh him.

"I turned around, stopped and I grabbed him," she said. "I realized there was someone underneath (the mask)."

She said she asked him why he was there, what he needed and what was going on. She offered him a cup of coffee inside. He took it black.

"I wanted to make sure I could keep him as calm as possible. I let him know I wasn't trying to be a real threat to him," she said.

He seemed confused and erratic, she said. And hardly harmless. After coffee, he took her into the living room where he handcuffed her, bound her legs with plastic ties and stuffed a spongelike ball in her mouth. He put a ski mask over her head and left her facedown on the living room couch.

She said she could only hear from that point on as he ransacked the house, clearing shelves and emptying drawers.

He cursed their clutter, saying he was looking for guns and crank.

"He would vacillate between, 'I'm going to protect you, other people are coming'; and, 'I'm going to kill you and anyone who comes near the house,' " she said.

Spencer said she "made her peace with God," frightened that she'd be killed. She feared for her husband, too, a baker at Vic's Market in Folsom, who came home about 1 p.m.

"When I heard my husband get home, I yelled, 'man, gun, knife,' but he didn't get it."

Charles Spencer said he saw his wife hogtied on the couch. At the same moment, the intruder jumped at him from behind and held him at knife point, he said.

Charles Spencer said the man tied him with plastic bindings. The intruder ranted, accusing the Spencers of stealing drugs from someone else, and saying that he would get them back.

After an hour, Spencer said the intruder left the room and he broke out of his bindings, freed his wife and ran to a neighbor's house to call Citrus Heights police.

Officers arrived, he said, and he ran to one and got a key to free his wife's bloodied hands from the handcuffs. Before officers entered the house, the intruder apparently ran, leaving behind bags he had filled with the Spencer's belongings.

Davis said officers canvassed the area looking for the intruder.

"Now (officers) get all the information they can from the victims, see if anything matches the description," Davis said. "They also see if the suspect left any DNA evidence - and if they can find anything to identify somebody."

Charles Spencer said the man left his mask, handcuffs and some clothes in the house, which Spencer gave to police. He said the intruder was caught on camera in the couple's back yard and the tape was given to detectives. Spencer said he installed the cameras to catch local children who would jump into their pool at night.

Davis said the man was described as white and in his 30s. Roberta Spencer said he had a mustache, blue-gray eyes, was about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed about 160 pounds. She said he held his knife and coffee in his left hand.

Charles Spencer said he was unnerved to hear little from police during the week and hopes to get tools back that the man apparently took from the house.

"I'm not trying to fault them, but I figured by now - I haven't heard from the detectives once," he said. "I'm just frustrated."

Spencer credits his wife's calm under duress for keeping both of them alive. But they are still unnerved.

"(Roberta) didn't sleep (Sunday) night," Charles Spencer said. "Every single sound kept her awake. At one point the power went out and she instantly called police. I padlocked (the outdoor breaker switches) so that wouldn't happen again."

This page is part of the Calamitous News,
which is a component of the Barking Dog News and