JONESVILLE - Charges against two men accused in the October home invasion robbery of an elderly Rose Hill woman were certified to the grand jury following a preliminary hearing in Lee County General District Court on Wednesday.
Dustin Drummonds, 20, 3393 Forge Ridge Road, Harrogate, Tenn., and Matthew Brett Chadwell, 22, P.O. Box 183, Ewing, are each charged with break and enter and robbery.
The 72-year-old victim's caretaker testified that she was in bed about 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 16 when she heard a dog in the home yelp as if it had been hurt. When she got up to see what was happening to the dog, she saw two men wearing dark hooded jackets with something over their faces standing over her charge. The men were pulling on the elderly woman's shirt and demanding that she give them what they wanted.
At that point, the caretaker said, she closed her door and began looking for a telephone but was unable to locate it, so she charged into the living room yelling for the men to leave. Instead, they charged at her, and she went back into the room, but the men broke the door down and forced her to the living room as well. The caretaker said her daughter emerged from her bedroom, saw the men and attempted to hide in her room, but the men kicked in that door and forced her to the living room also.
They repeated their demands for the older woman's medications, and one of the two instructed the other to retrieve a gun from a third person outside. The woman said she attempted to find a telephone, but one of the two men followed her around the house. Although the man's face was covered, she said she would be able to recognize him by his eyes, and she identified Chadwell as that man for the court.
Eventually, the caretaker said, she retrieved the woman's medications.
One of the men then went through the pills and selected one bottle and put it in his pocket. Then the two left, taking a cordless telephone with them and advising the victims not to call police. The woman said she later learned the men had kicked in the front door to gain access to the home, and her daughter recognized one of the robbers as a juvenile with whom she went to school.
The elderly woman, who has Parkinson's disease, testified that she was asleep in her bed when she was awakened by two men pulling on her nightshirt. Somehow they managed to get her in the living room, where they demanded her medicines. She said she believed they were friends of one of her grandsons and became aware of a third person on her porch, so she yelled that grandson's name and the person jumped off the porch. She reiterated the testimony about one of the robbers asking the other to get the gun, and said the two left after her caretaker gave them medicine.
The juvenile, who has already pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the robbery, testified that he and Drummonds were "hanging out" at another residence when Chadwell dropped by and later suggested they rob the woman of her medications. He said the three devised a plan, went to Chadwell's house where Chadwell tore the sleeves off some old T-shirts to make masks, and they went to the house to commit the robbery.
However, the juvenile said, upon arrival Drummonds advised him he was not sure he could go through with his role, and after the juvenile and Chadwell kicked in the door, Drummonds fled. He was not sure where the man went, he said.
Much of his version of events corroborated what the victims had previously testified to, but he claimed he did not go to the door to get a gun as they had testified. He admitted to having drank beer and smoked marijuana throughout the day prior to the robbery. He admitted that it was he who went through the medication and selected one bottle, which he placed in his pocket, and then he and Chadwell left the home.
After leaving the home, they encountered Drummonds, and the three divided the medication among themselves, he said.
Investigator Bobby Ellis of the Lee County Sheriff's Department testified that he identified the juvenile from victim statements, and although he found the boy and Drummonds at home and awake at nearly 4 a.m., he did not have evidence to charge them until the juvenile gave a statement earlier this month. That led to the arrest of Drummonds, who also gave a statement in which he implicated all three suspects, although he stated that he was scared to participate in the robbery so he waited outside.