Residents describe finding homes ransacked and robbed
With the help of one of the alleged suspects, prosecutors continue to build a case against three other men accused of ransacking and robbing 10 homes throughout Washtenaw County this past summer.
The crew is alleged to have stolen foreign coins, two-dollar bills, equestrian trophies, jewelry, electronics, cash, a guitar and custom-made brass bullets from homes in Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Township, Scio Township, Webster Township and Dexter Township. In one instance, a wall was destroyed in an unsuccessful attempt to open a safe filled with expensive jewelry, according to courtroom testimony Thursday.
The homes also were vandalized in many cases, residents testified. In one home, a chandelier was smashed and a sword from a knight’s suit of armor was run through a computer screen. A few homeowners also testified they discovered feces left in the toilets of their ransacked houses.
After seven hours of testimony Thursday at a preliminary examination for three of the accused men in the 14A-1 District Court, prosecutors were beginning to link the crimes to the crew when Judge Christopher Easthope postponed court proceedings for three weeks due to time issues.
A fourth member of the crew, 25-year-old Steven Colwell, of Lima Township, was set to testify against the other accused men: Jeffrey Arthur Schuh, 54; his son Jeffrey Aron Schuh, 20, both of Dexter; and Quang Nguyen, 19, of Ypsilanti Township. Colwell still is expected to take the stand against them when the exam resumes Nov. 29, Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor Amy Reiser said.
The break-ins began July 12 in Ann Arbor and continued until Aug. 9 when Christine Davis pulled up in the driveway of her Quail Ridge Drive home in Dexter Township after dropping off her grandchildren and saw suspects unloading items from her home into a beige Buick sedan, she testified. Police were later able to make arrests based on Davis’ vehicle description, according to police testimony.
Other individuals were on hand in court Thursday to testify about how the homes were robbed or trashed. Many of the homes were unoccupied either because the residents were on vacation or in the process of selling the home and no longer dwelling there — or both — testimony revealed.
Dr. Dennis Chernin, who lived in the 1700 of Ives Lane in Ann Arbor, said he had his house on the market when it was broken into sometime during the second week of July, which could have been the first in the string of break-ins the four men are charged in. He recalled checking in on the house and discovering a television, DVD player and cable box were missing.
Kimberly Bauer, whose house also was for sale, was at her daughter’s diving meet in Indiana between July 12 and 15 when her home in the 2800 block of Eisenhower Parkway in Ann Arbor was broken into.
When she came home, she instantly noticed a missing alarm clock and laptop. Contents from drawers and cabinets also were dumped everywhere, she said.
“That’s when I knew I’d been robbed,” Bauer testified.
Also missing were cameras and costume jewelry, some of which was recovered by police and linked to the crew, according to testimony.
A home owned by John Bennett located in the 3400 block of Ashburnam Road in Ann Arbor was for sale when it was burgled. Bennett said he got a phone call from the real estate agent around 5 p.m. on July 18. The real estate agent informed Bennett the main power switch had been shut off at the home. Bennett said he discovered the house had been broken into when he walked his two dogs past it around 7 p.m. that same evening. The front door was open and clothes had been taken out of drawers and strewn about the house. His son’s digital turntable and suitcase were missing, he said.
Timothy Tamer was on a business trip in China when his home in the 500 block of Rock Creek Drive in Ann Arbor Township was robbed. He returned from the trip July 27 to find his house a mess.
“It was pretty much ransacked,” he said, adding that whoever broke in took “everything they could take.”
Some of the items taken included jewelry, cash, suitcases, clothes and shoes, Tamer testified. Two gold rings and an iPad were later recovered by police. Prosecutors say the items are linked to the suspects. The house also was for sale.
One of the suspects was connected with at least one victim, testimony revealed. Emily Olson, who lives with her family in the 35000 block of Richmond Drive in Ann Arbor, testified she knows Nguyen from high school. She said Nguyen had been to her home two or three times before it was broken into the last week of July while her family was on vacation.
The teenager said she and Nguyen exchanged about four or five text messages where she revealed her family was going to be away from the home between July 28 and Aug. 4. They had been making plans to possibly hang out when she said she was going to be out of town.
“He said, ‘Oh, how long are you going to be gone?’” she sad.
When the Olson family returned home, Emily’s father, Kenneth, testified he began unloading their vehicle as his wife and daughter went into the home.
“When I went into the house, my wife was distraught and said we’d been robbed,” he said.
Kenneth Olson said drawers and closets had been rifled through and many items were missing, including a guitar, jewelry, numerous foreign coins and a camcorder in a bag that had one of his business cards in it.
Erin Haas, who reported a home invasion in the 9000 block of Scio Church Road July 30, could not be in court to testify Thursday. Trooper Raymond Matthews of the Michigan State Police who took the complaint testified in her place. He said Haas, who is a horse enthusiast, had several equestrian trophies stolen, as well as assorted jewelry including a pearl necklace and a gold bracelet.
Det. Craig Raisanen of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office testified one of the horse-related items, a prize in the shape of a platter with Haas’ name on it, was recovered while police investigated Colwell.
Around $20,000 in jewelry and $9,000 in cash was reported stolen at a home invasion reported in the 7700 block of Fischer’s Way in Webster Township on July 30. Clay Kramer testified he came home from a three-week vacation to find his home looted of expensive items. In addition to the jewels and cash, also missing were credit cards, an XBox console and games, an iMac, collectable coins and two-dollar bills.
During questioning, Reiser asked Kramer if the suspects had left anything behind, particularly in the bathroom.
“We noticed there was feces in the toilet,” Kramer said.
Margaret Leary was the only victim home at the time of the alleged robbery. She said she went to bed around 11 p.m. Aug. 3 at her home in the 1000 block of Newport Road in Ann Arbor. She woke up at 2:30 a.m. to get a drink of water and said everything was normal. When she rose again around 5:30 a.m., she discovered her kitchen had been rummaged through and that the front door was wide open.
Her wallet with her credit cards was missing. Police were later able to discover the cards were used at a Belleville Meijer and a BP gas station in Dexter. Pictures from the Meijer’s security cameras of who used the credit cards were admitted as evidence, though the prosecution did not yet have the opportunity to identify the individuals in the pictures as any of the suspects in open court.
It wasn’t discovered until Aug. 13, but a home for sale in the 3100 block of East Delhi Road in Scio Township was probably broken into sometime earlier, Realtor Nancy Bishop testified.
Bishop recalled coming to the house, which is owned by a couple who were living at their second home in Northern Michigan.
“I saw all this broken glass on the door,” she said. “The chandelier in the foyer had been smashed.”
Bishop said there was a seven-foot tall “knight in shining armor” in the study of the home.
“The sword had been taken from the knight and used to stab a computer monitor,” she said.
As in the other home invasion cases, closets, drawers and cabinets were ripped apart. Like the Kramer residence, feces was left in a toilet, prosecutors pointed out.
Bishop said the insurance company estimated about $20,000 in damages to the home. There also were foreign coins missing.
That home invasion could have occurred the same day, Aug. 9, Davis came home to find three male subjects hauling items out of her home and some of the suspects were arrested.
Davis’ house on Quail Ridge was for sale and when she initially pulled up the long driveway and saw the car, she assumed it was the real estate agent showing the house, she said. She immediately left because she didn’t want to interrupt.
Davis called her husband, who informed her the house was not being shown to prospective buyers, so Davis returned to the house and ended up chasing the beige Buick sedan that tore across her lawn trying to get a license plate number. She was unable to get the number, but she got a good enough look at the car to provide a useful description to police.
Davis said when she went inside her house that “it was trashed.” Most noticeable was the damage to the wall between a closet and bathroom encasing a safe filled with jewelry, according to Davis, including pry marks on the safe itself. The missing items included jewelry, a Kindle and bullets with bronze casings custom made for her husband.
Police believe the car Davis spotted and chased belongs to Jeffrey Aron Schuh, Raisanen said. Colwell, however, was the first suspect arrested and charged. The other two suspects were arrested and charged around the same time as Jeffrey Aron Schuh.
Investigators believe the two-dollar bills found in the bedroom of Jeffrey Aron Schuh while police executed a search warrant are those taken from Kramer. Police also said they found items in Schuh’s car linking him to the robberies including the camcorder with a bag containing Ken Olson’s business card.
Raisanen testified many of the items recovered and identified by the residents were found at area pawn shops where Colwell sold them. Police realized Colwell was going to be an asset in the investigation.
“There was cooperation and admission to a number of different home invasions,” said Ann Arbor police Det. Laura Burke who, along with another detective, drove Colwell around to locations of different break-ins to gather information for the investigation.
Colwell also is charged in the cases, but will likely get a break for testifying. When the examination continues on Nov. 29, Raisanen will re-take the stand to finish cross-examination by the three defendants’ attorneys. Colwell is expected to testify after that.
According to court records, Jeffrey Aron Schuh, Colwell and Nguyen are charged in nine cases. The charges include safe-breaking and first and second-degree home invasion. Jeffrey Arthur Schuh is charged in three: on Newport Road, Richmond Drive and Rock Creek Drive. His charges included first and second-degree home invasion.
When the preliminary exam is concluded, Easthope will determine whether there is reason to bind the cases over to circuit court.
Nguyen and Jeffrey Aron Schuh are being held on a $10,000 bond on each case, totaling $90,000. Jeffrey Arthur Schuh’s bond totals $30,000. They are all being held at the Washtenaw County Jail.
View Summer break-in map in a larger map