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Neighbors ‘twitchier’ since burglary; victims want city to cease transitional housing use of property
POULSBO — For two years, one neighbor said, families came and went from the large house on 4th Avenue and Viewmont Street. Some had children. Most were quiet and kept to themselves. Some neighbors said they didn’t know the house was being used by Kitsap Community Resources as transitional housing.
This is a quiet neighborhood of retirees and families, down the street from the Lutheran Church and within walking distance of downtown, the library and Christ the King Academy.
But feelings of neighborhood security changed after a house on 5th Avenue was burglarized while its residents were home Aug. 9. Then, on Aug. 24, two men were arrested at the Viewmont Street house on suspicion of burglarizing The Loft restaurant on the waterfront; while searching the Viewmont Street house, police found items stolen from the 5th Avenue house.
Detective David Gesell would not disclose the burglary suspects’ histories, but did say “We’re familiar with them.”
The house is owned by the First Lutheran Church of Poulsbo and is offered for temporary housing for families facing homelessness through One Church One Family, a coalition of Kitsap County churches. Kitsap Community Resources does the placement and case management.
Executive Director Larry Eyer and Housing Director Darlene Cook said Thursday that a criminal background check was done on the couple assigned to the house.
“Nothing came back,” Eyer said.
Cook added, “Both seemed to have some employment prospects. This was seen as a way to help get them through.”
However, a check of the Washington Courts online database shows one of the occupants, the one arrested Aug. 24, was a defendant in 14 cases in seven different courts in Washington state. Details of those cases were not available at press time. “You can have a misdemeanor background,” Cook said.
Mayor Becky Erickson, who is a member of the Kitsap Community Resources board, met Thursday morning with Lutheran Church pastors Donald Jukam and Kent Shane; she said the pastors will organize a meeting with neighbors to discuss concerns.
She wrote in an email to neighbors, “Before anyone else is moved into the house, there will be a thorough review of all processes involved, including community outreach so that the neighbors are informed.”
Eyer said he understood the meeting would take place in two or three weeks. Cook said no one was going to be placed in the Viewmont Street home in the interim.
“We’re going to wait for a while and not place anyone in there until after the meeting. We want to hear what people have to say.”
Eyer added, “We also want people to know it’s not a sobriety house or a halfway house. These are homeless families with children that we serve.”
‘We’re a bit twitchier’
Hendel Thistletop said he and his wife, Faith Brashear, are “a bit twitchier” since their 5th Avenue house was burglarized while they were home Aug. 9. It was 9 p.m. and they had finished watching TV in the daylight basement of their large, three-level home, left the room and began preparing for bed.
Brashear was on the first level doing laundry when she said she saw, from the corner of her eye, a woman with a ponytail flash by. She thought it was their daughter and called for her from the bottom of the stairs, then went upstairs to check on her.
Shortly after, while in bed, she heard a screech-screech-screech sound. She thought maybe it was the family’s three cats.
The next morning, the reality was painfully clear. The daylight basement door was open. Their 60-inch TV, Xbox game console and a laptop computer were gone. On the first level of the house, where Brashear thought she saw a flash of ponytail, necklaces and a baseball cap were gone from an armoire. Elsewhere in the house, a coin collection was missing.
During the police investigation, the necklaces were found in the ball cap in a closet. Thistletop thinks the suspect grabbed the necklaces and stuffed them into the ball cap and then, spooked by Brashear’s calling for their daughter, ditched them in a closet and left the house. Brashear now believes the screech-screech-screech sound was the suspects walking out with the TV.
Thistletop and Brashear believe the suspects may have cased their house, because they knew where to go in the house to get what they wanted.
They jimmied the sliding door open. They knew where the coin collection and the jewelry were. And they pulled off the burglary while the occupants were home.
“This was someone who has done this for a while,” Thistletop said.
After the Aug. 24 arrests, Brashear got her coin books back, but gone are coins dating to the 1850s that she had inherited from her father. Brashear later saw a woman with a ponytail on the front porch of the Viewmont Street house. Detective Gesell would not say whether the woman is a suspect.
Loft’s safe removed
According to Gesell, The Loft was burglarized on the morning of Aug. 15. “The office was ransacked and one of the safes was taken,” he reported.
“On that same morning, a witness saw a suspicious vehicle on her property and called her father to check the area. When the father arrived, the car was gone but the stolen safe from The Loft was found and had been broken into. Multiple pieces of evidence were recovered at that scene.”
The investigation led to the Aug. 24 arrest of Hayden Armstrong-Nunes and Jason Wymer at 418 Viewmont St.
Gesell said Wymer is a former employee of The Loft. He, an unidentified woman and their child were the house’s tenants; two adults, one of them Armstrong-Nunes, were staying there “couch surfing.”
During a search of the house, police found stolen property from the 5th Avenue house, as well as drug paraphernalia. Armstrong-Nunes and Wymer were booked and the remaining occupants of the house were evicted a couple of days later.
As of Wednesday, the house at 4th and Viewmont was vacant. Brashear and Thistletop are talking to police about starting a Neighborhood Watch program.
“Neighborhood Watch is about knowing who your neighbors are,” Thistletop said. “How do you know who your neighbors are when it’s transitional housing?”