Hartland Couple Finds Proactive Solutions After Daytime Burglary

  • Skip and Rosemary Saunders, of Hartland, Vt., stand in front of their home on the Quechee-Hartland Road, on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Hartland, Vt. The Saunders say their home was robbed on Saturday afternoon. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Charles Hatcher

  • The door knob that was chipped and pried at Saturday afternoon to break into Skip and Rosemary Saunders' home, photographed Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, on the Quechee-Hartland Road in Hartland, Vt. Rosemary Saunders said that the couple's home was broken into while they were away from home for about three hours running errands. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Skip Saunders, of Hartland, Vt., explains how he knew his medicine cabinet was tampered with after his home was broken into on Saturday afternoon, photographed on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at the Saunders' home on the Quechee-Hartlnad Road in Hartland, Vt. Living in the home for 48 years, Skip and Rosemary Saunders are upgrading their locks and getting new metal doors after the robbery. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Charles Hatcher

  • Rosemary Saunders, of Hartland, Vt., opens a safe that robbers broke into and left behind after a break-in on Saturday afternoon at her and her husband's home on the Quechee-Hartland Road, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Hartland, Vt. Saunders said that the safe contained important documents. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/8/2017 11:57:59 PM
Modified: 8/9/2017 5:36:18 PM

Hartland — Rosemary Saunders now sleeps within an arm’s reach of a loaded pistol and shotgun.

The 74-year-old Hartland resident said she isn’t taking any chances after someone broke into her home on the Quechee-Hartland Road Saturday afternoon and stole thousands of dollars in coins, jewelry and other items, including prescription medications.

“I’m ready,” Saunders said on Tuesday. “This has changed me.”

Saunders and her 79-year-old husband, Skip, left their house much like they do every Saturday afternoon to attend Mass at St. Anthony Catholic Church in White River Junction.

They set out around 2 p.m. — a little bit earlier than normal so they could run an errand — and returned home at about 4:30 p.m.

Rosemary Saunders kicked off her shoes and walked to their bedroom to get a pair of socks, but stopped to pick up a blouse that had fallen from the key on a filing cabinet just inside the doorway. She didn’t think much of it, and continued to her bureau.

She started to pick out a pair of socks when she looked to her right and noticed a large white Sentry safe wasn’t in its usual place on the floor of the closet. In fact, it wasn’t in the bedroom at all.

“I said, ‘Oh, my god, the safe is gone,” before yelling for her husband.

The pair soon realized a second smaller safe had been rummaged through and thrown into a laundry basket, a large jug containing state quarters was gone and several pieces of jewelry were taken from Rosemary’s tall jewelry box. A bag containing medication for Skip’s high blood pressure and other prescription drugs was taken from the bedroom, and some of their pill bottles were out of place in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.

Also missing was the area rug that lay at the foot of their neatly made bed; the Saunderses believe the suspect or suspects wiggled the roughly 200-pound safe onto the rug and dragged it out the back door and down the steps to either a four wheeler or another type of getaway vehicle.

The Saunderses, who have lived in the small light-green home nestled near Gilson Road for 48 years, called 911 and Vermont State Police responded to process the scene. To date, no one has been caught and charged with a crime, the Saunderses said while sitting at their kitchen table on Tuesday. Dirt foot prints from the robbery still sit imprinted on their back deck.

Trooper Stacia Geno, who is handling the case, issued a news release on Sunday about the incident that said anyone with information should contact her.

Several messages left for her on Tuesday weren’t returned.

The Saunderses believe they were targeted by either someone they knew or someone who had been watching their daily routines closely.

Skip Saunders thought that the break-in may be tied to the opioid epidemic. Perhaps the perpetrator or perpetrators believed he had prescription pain pills inside because he is a veteran who served in both the Army and Navy, he said.

“They were probably looking for opiates,” said Skip, a retired machinist and engineer who works as a substitute teacher in town. “You won’t get any opiates here.”

The incident has forced the Saunderses to change their daily habits and make immediate improvements in order to boost their comfort level inside their own home.

They already have purchased new double-locking door handles that they will install on the new steel doors they purchase for the front and back doors. They also plan to cut down a tree or two in their backyard so the house is in plain view of the neighbors.

They also plan to run errands separately and attend different church services so they don’t leave the house unoccupied.

“It’s too bad,” Skip Saunders said. “Years ago you could leave your keys in your car and your doors wide open and never have any problems. It’s a different world — entirely.”

Having a “neighborhood watch” is something Rosemary Saunders hopes to institute, and she urged others in the Upper Valley to do the same.

“I am mad,” said Rosemary, who already suffered a tragedy last month when a grandson died in Florida. “They have changed my life. To think someone was in my bedroom ... and touched my things.”

She wants to send a stark message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in town. In addition to the two guns by her bed — which were there before the incident but weren’t kept loaded — she also has a stun gun and plans to purchase pepper spray.

“Be alert and be armed,” she said.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.


A white Sentry safe was stolen from the Hartland home of Skip and Rosemary Saunders on Saturday. An earlier version of this story named an incorrect color.

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