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Home invasion shatters peace in neighborhood

ELLENTON — Toya Henderson was in the middle of a late-night study session in her kitchen when chaos exploded outside her window in Covered Bridge Estates.

Two men crashed a car into her house late Tuesday, just after they apparently fled a home invasion down the street. The Dodge Neon took out the power meter, air-conditioner, cable and phone at Henderson’s rented home in the 5900 block of Willows Bridge Loop.

“It sounded like a boom that could have ended the world,” she said Wednesday.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives do not think the home invasion robbery, which was reported by a 14-year-old girl hiding in a bathroom, was a random act., But spokesman Dave Bristow declined to reveal a possible motive. The home was ransacked, but the invaders took nothing, he said.

Bristow said the Dodge has been seized, and it was being processed for evidence. The girl’s mother, who also lives in the house but was not home, has been questioned. “We are confident we are going to find the people who did this,” Bristow said.

The terror started for the 14-year-old minutes before the car crashed into Henderson’s home.

Sheriff’s office reports say just before midnight Tuesday, the girl called 911 after hearing someone pry into the home through a back door.

The girl said an intruder with a handgun heard her, forced his way into the bathroom through a locked door and demanded to know “where the money was,” and who she had called. The girl said she had called her mother and the man left.

She later told deputies she saw a second man, with an AK-47 and wearing a bulletproof vest, leave the home with the other man. Both men had on ski masks, according to the sheriff’s office.

A sheriff’s deputy arrived, saw the men fleeing the residence and gave chase. The suspects got into a maroon Dodge Neon and peeled out in reverse, making it about 75 feet before losing control, sending the car careening between Henderson’s house and another house.

The men ran from the car and they escaped, leaving behind the wreckage on Henderson’s air-conditioner and a Mac-11 weapon in the vehicle. “I don’t know how they could have gotten away,” said Henderson.

Henderson said it will be a while before she and her children, ages 12, 6 and 1, will be feel comfortable in the home. “My 6-year-old is hysterical still,” she said. “I moved here to be safe, but there really is nowhere to be safe anymore.”

Other neighbors also expressed concern, saying the neighborhood is normally quiet. But the area has had its trouble as the housing bust has led to more vacant homes and turnover among renters, according to Pablo Vizcany, who lives across the street from Henderson.

“A lot of investors bought in here and took off after the housing bust, so the neighborhood has changed a lot,” Vizcany said.

Vizcany said he woke up about 3 a.m. to the sound of chains rattling loudly as a tow truck pulled the wrecked Dodge off of Henderson’s air-conditioner.

“We heard these chains just rattling so loud, and we wondered what the heck was going on,” he said. “I am unsettled. My wife walks the neighborhood by herself, and I am trying to raise a family here.”

Butch Keefer, who lives two doors down from where the home invasion happened, said he has no idea what could have been the motive for the home invasion.

“It is nerve-racking,” said Keefer, standing in his driveway Wednesday afternoon with his 13-year-old daughter. “It is usually really very quiet around here.”