Now those homeowners, Clary and Dean, have shared their story with The Almanac, a sister publication of the Weekly. Their last names are being withheld due to their safety concerns.
The couple was on vacation when burglars entered their home and apparently broke off the faucet handle to use as a tool to try to open the safe. When the home began to flood from water leaking from the faucet, a fire alarm sounded and the thieves fled.
The result? Mold, a home gutted after 16 hours of flooding caused about $1 million in structural damage, and the loss of $20,000 in property.
It was an alert neighbor who spotted a stream of water running down Dean and Clary's driveway after the break in and alerted both them and the police.
A police officer used FaceTime to show the couple the extent of the damage. Most items in the house were ruined, including Dean's two handmade guitars.
At the time of the burglary, half the alarm system was activated since the couple had someone coming daily to check on the home. But the alarm that would directly alert the police of a break in was turned off.
Home security cameras captured images of two women and a man breaking into the home through a window at the back of the house.
Police believe that home burglaries over the last year in Atherton — as well as the theft of $800,000 worth of jewelry reported stolen from a home on Dec. 8, 2020 — are linked to a crime spree in town in 2018 by members of a Chilean gang.
Police are analyzing items found through a search warrant.
"I would say it appears this burglary is connected with the rest of the burglaries we have had, but I cannot say anything definitive until the search warrant returns are received and looked through," Atherton police Sgt. Anthony Kockler said in an email.
An outpouring of support
While the burglary has shaken the couple, the response from their community has also given them a measure of resolve — and deep gratitude.
Clary said they are more aware of their surroundings and are more prone to notice unusual cars and people in their neighborhood.
"We check our doors repeatedly now and check strange sounds in the night," she said. "Sleeping ... is with one eye open."
The pair now plan not to leave their home without activating their security system, even for a few minutes. They also added sensors to glass windows and doors.
From neighbors calling them and police as soon as the flooding began to family members temporarily housing them, Clary and Dean said they were touched by the people who supported them in the aftermath of the burglary.
Family and friends helped the two, who flew back from their trip early, to move personal items, even heavy furniture and damaged rugs.
"It changed our hearts and attitudes to a spirit of fight and resolve; we were on a mission to recover," Clary said. "I still get a little choked up. It's really the kindness that does it to us; it's not feeling violated."
The couple has appreciated the work of the police to identify the culprits.
"Though we were devastated, it was comforting to know they were going to do what they could to catch the criminals," she said of the police.
"The response reminded us that the spirit of our community will never be overcome by the darkness of criminal activity," Clary said. "We will have a heightened awareness for our safety. ... The police would like us all to know they're working to catch this ring of criminals; it can help by reporting all suspicious people."
Police plan to host a community meeting with residents about the burglaries on Feb. 16.
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