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Posted on Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Ypsilanti couple watched as 14-year-old suspect broke into home: 'The whole thing left us feeling sad'

By John Counts


Rene Greff

Previous story: 14-year-old boy arrested hiding in basement after home invasion

Rene Greff and her husband, Matt, were upstairs in their Ypsilanti home Sunday around 8 a.m. when they heard a knock on the door.

Because it was so early, “we thought it was a little odd,” Rene said.

The 14-year-old Ypsilanti Township boy at the door allegedly broke into the house, tried stealing their wallets and car keys and was found hiding in the basement and arrested by Ypsilanti police.

Before that could occur, though, the Greffs -- who own the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti and the Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor -- went through quite an ordeal. Holed up in the upstairs bathroom, the couple stayed on the phone with police and helped coordinate the capture and arrest of an intruder in their home.

After hearing the initial knock on the door, the Greffs decided not to answer it. But the knocking continued.

“The person proceeded to bang on the door for 10 minutes,” Rene recalled in a phone conversation with Monday afternoon.

The boy then went into the backyard and continued knocking on windows and doors, ostensibly to see if anyone was home before making his move.

The Greffs were watching him from upstairs.

“The whole time, we were watching him out the windows,” Rene said

They called the police. A dispatcher stayed on the phone with the Greffs throughout the incident.

The boy then found a kitchen window that was unlocked. Rene said he got it open and slipped in.

“We heard him in the kitchen,” she added.

By this time, the Greffs had locked themselves inside their bathroom and continued to talk with the dispatcher on the telephone. Ypsilanti police - complete with a K-9 police dog - soon showed up.

“They stormed the backyard,” Rene said about the police. One officer climbed through the same window the boy allegedly used to gain access to the residence.

The boy was found in the basement, where he had stashed the wallets and car keys Rene said he had stolen from the main floor. He was taken to the Ypsilanti Police Department and lodged at the Washtenaw County juvenile detention facility.

Rene said because of the diligence of the Ypsilanti police, she and her husband were never too afraid.

“The police were great to work with,” she said. “The whole thing left us feeling sad. This kid’s life is heading in the wrong direction.”

The Greffs are now considering putting in an alarm system because they think their neighborhood - they live in the 1300 block of Grant Street in Ypsilanti - is a target for petty crime.

“Enough is enough,” Rene said.

View Washtenaw County Crime Reports in a larger map

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 8:40 a.m.

he is lucky the greffs are nice,poor young man,may not be so lucky next time he could have got shot,or mauled by a dangerous dog

Ann English

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.

I had no idea that Ypsilanti has both a Grant Drive and a Grant Street. It does sound strange for someone too young to have a driver's license would attempt to steal car keys. Usually when we read on about someone driving without a license, it's because his license was suspended.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

We had similar problem in AA with people coming to the door at odd hours, knocking and then checking doors and windows to see if they were unlocked. Very disconcerting. We finally just moved out of the area ... and then eventually out-of-state. I have not had the problem since. An AA and Ypsi thing I guess? Best of luck.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 10:46 a.m.

Apparently many folks don't know about the Castle Doctrine that is a LAW here in Michgian. There is no way that I would be held a prisoner inmy own home. You enter my home unannounced and you will pay the consequencies. Everything that is in my home is materialistic but I will defend it because I worked my butt off for it. I'm a gun owner and I also have a CPL (Concealed Pistol License). I would have used it. Period. I would hope that I would never have to shoot anyone let alone a 14 year old. But the law here in Michigan is that you no longer have to be in fear of your life and you can defend your castle (Home). People need to stop being so scared and allowing these thugs to just break in their homes. Do something about it, stand up and stop it and send a message. Holing up in up sends a scared message and anyone reading this story now know's where they can hit.

Stupid Hick

Fri, Jul 27, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

Rice, I voted you up on the strength of your third paragraph.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

Not sure what the problem is. I advised a fellow CPL holder that he cannot simply shoot someone in his home and use the Castle Doctrine. I suggested he review or refresh the law portion of his training because he still needs to convince the law of a reasonable fear for his and his family's lives. That the reasoning articulated here can and will be used against him if he ever had to defend himself in his home. This stuff is self defense law 101. For the record I think the victims of this episode played it out just right, the perp was caught and no one was injured. My home invasion plans are similar except I would hole up in my bedroom and be armed.

Stupid Hick

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 4:25 a.m.

Ricebrnr: "Then for Pete's sake shut up and above all do not say the above!" Why should he not say it if it's not true? Let him be judged on actions and his true motives.

Stupid Hick

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 4:18 a.m.

Lord help us, what kind of person thinks it's appropriate to kill a child for trying to steal?

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

I was thinking that anyone reading this story now knows that when they knock on the door to a house, it doesn't mean no one is home just because they don't answer. And likely the people inside will be armed with A PHONE that they will use to the police. The police who will respond immediately by the way. Now if the story mentioned that the home owners were armed, then the crooks reading would know where to go to steal a gun. Where do you think crooks get guns?


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

I suggest a refresher on the law portion of your CPL training. If you articulate the above to the police or if they see this after a shooting, the Castle Doctrine will not help you. Hint: "He broke into my home, his actions caused me to fear for our lives. I will be happy to make a further statement after I consult with my lawyer." Then for Pete's sake shut up and above all do not say the above!


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Agree 100%.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 3:10 a.m.

Thank God for the Ypsilanti Police Department. I don't care what anyones says. They are some of the finest. Good job YPD. Keep up the good work.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:32 a.m.

Good response from the Ypsi Police. Dispatch consolidation must be working fine. Good thing they don't live in Detroit they would have gotten a busy signal.

Harry Sammy

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

I must say that this Kid's situation could have turned out differently with me, heads up parents teach your kids to behave this one could have got out of hand!!!

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

I bet hollering and screaming would have driven off this creep.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

Everybody's a tough guy on the internet.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

The predecssor to this news format stopped publishing addresses of individuals convicted of drving offenses after it resulted in crimes being committed at said address following the publicatin.

Ypsi Skunk

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

Bravo YPD! There's no way this kid woke up one day and decided to break into a house, I'm sure if we looked at his history, we would find a string of crimes gradually increasing in severity. To me, home invasion is no petty crime. Too bad we have to wait another three years before he can be charged as an adult. And bravo to the Greff's. As any good CPL class should should respond to a non-life threatening situation as you would if you were not armed. If someone is breaking into your house, you gather your family in your safe-room (a bedroom or bathroom or any other room with a lock and alternate exit) and call the police. Should the intruder come into your safe room, then take appropriate action.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. You do not know the intent of someone breaking in.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

Not a good idea to publish a persons address, no matter what the cause.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

Don't look at it as sad..... you may have caught the punk in time that boot camp will straighten him out... Also, you may have saved his life from being taken on an ensuing break in where the owner may use deadly force against him...... In addition, if you are feeling so sad for him, perhaps you can give him a job working for your brewmaster....I bet some hard work and discipline never hurt........ As opposed to paying the big money for an alarm system, I would recommend investing in a CPL class and learn how to handle a handgun. Get your concealed carry permit. While you were "locked in the bathroom" what would you have defended yourself with had the perp came in after you, a toilet brush? Think about it........

Matt Cooper

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Wow! From reading all the comments here I wonder why we have any crime problems at all. What with everyone here carrying guns and knowing exactly what they would do in a similar situation, I should think we'd never again have any crime at all here in Washtenaw county!! Must be nice to sit in the relative comfort of your home, behind your monitor without someone beating on your windows in the middle of the night playing Monday morning quarterback and with a certain braggadocio proclaim "Well, here's what I would have done instead!!!". My, my, my! I see Washtenaw County is filled with some of the baddest mofo's anywhere! Instead of judging the reactions of the homeowners and thinking of all the things you would do to someone knocking on your door in the middle of the night, why not just be glad for the Greff's that this situation turned out okay, and that they are safe and unharmed. I hope they do get an alarm installed, and perhaps buy a guard dog as well. And I'm glad they are safe, and I pray they stay that way.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

Also, try reading the article first. there was nothing "middle of the night" about it. "Rene Greff and her husband, Matt, were upstairs in their Ypsilanti home Sunday around 8 a.m. when they heard a knock on the door."


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

"Must be nice to sit in the relative comfort of your home, behind your monitor without someone beating on your windows in the middle of the night playing Monday morning quarterback and with a certain braggadocio proclaim "Well, here's what I would have done instead!!!". My, my, my! I see Washtenaw County is filled with some of the baddest mofo's anywhere!" No Monday morning quarterbacking going on with me. Given the circumstances its just common sense, if a stranger is persistently pounding at my doors and windows, I'm going to go outside and face whoever it is. Chances are they aren't taking hiding or ignoring them for an answer and they are next going to find a way in. My gut instinct is to not let that happen and meet them outside.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

@Matt Cooper You go pray to your invisible man in the sky. Sacrifice a sheep or something too, just gain His favor and attention. I'm sure that'll help more than a big dog, or some motion activated lights, or a shotgun. We'll compare outcomes later.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

I have a German Shepherd. People frequently knock on my door at all hours of the day and night but I have found that when the big dog gets barking in their face through the window, they somehow decide to leave. I usually answer my door in the day time but sometimes I choose not to because I am afraid I'll have to deal with Mormons or Politicians going door to door. It never would even occur to me, before reading this, that some 14 y/o kid would be knocking to see if it was a good house to rob. I wouldn't answer my door at that time on a Sunday morning because I don't really trust people who get up early on Sunday mornings. Now, if I could only train that dog to answer the door with a gun!


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

Mormons and politicians and bears, oh my!


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

You should always lock doors and windows. Try putting keys and wallets and purses where they are not easily found. But why not answer the door and confront the kid after 10 min of knocking especially? Let the kid know you are home and you'll scare them away. Then call the police. And because the Greffs are well known, I'm sure that's why the police acted in full force.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 9:14 p.m.

Well known to whom? The dispatchers taking the call? I doubt it? The officers responding? I highly doubt it. You think disptachers announce the last names of the caller while dispatching a home invasion in progress? Please educate yourself. This kind of ignorance from someone presumably old enough to vote is embarassing.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

FWIW, I am not well known and have had nothing but the best service from the Ypsilanti Police Department. I have no doubt that if I had called them about a similar incident, they would have reacted similarly. No kidding, I one called the non-emergency line to report a suspicious car parked down the street and they had an officer talking to the guy in FIVE minutes.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

JMA2Y is answering the door what the police would suggest? I think the Greff's couldn't have handled this any better. The perp is in jail, and hopefully doing some soul searching. But if it were me, I'd be more worried about when my parents picked me up.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

No, JMA2Y, you're wrong, the Ypsilanti police respond to ALL emergency calls quickly and professionally! Doesn't matter who you are, the YPD is fantastic.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

Just to let you know - I had to read the first few paragraphs about three times to understand what was going on with the time sequence. The inversion of time that occurs within the third paragraph and between the third and fourth paragraphs is really, really confusing to the reader.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

Agreed! I had to reread the headline too. Confusing start.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

Nice of you to publish the address and map too! It will make it easier for the next kid to find the house.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

I would think they have taken steps in the advent that this happens again they will be safe. So if some kid is reading this and thinks they are a good target, we'll find out who the Darwin award goes to.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

"The police were great to work with," she said. "The whole thing left us feeling sad. This kid's life is heading in the wrong direction." Too generous. These thugs are criminals and need to be prosecuted in a serious manner. Otherwise, these home invasions turn into armed robbery and murder.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1 p.m.

Roger I often don't answer the door if I don't know the person, but if they keep knocking I will first retreave my gun then call the police. And if entry is gained before police arrive..... Game over, no do over for the perp.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Wow, how many times has that happened?


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

I did not get the feeling they were frightened. Rather, they thought it was unusual for someone to be knocking at 8:00 a.m. and they wanted to let things play out to see what would happen. I give them credit for involving the police. Too many times, people just yell at the perpetrator and they bolt, which only gives them the chance to try again somewhere else. It was clear what his intentions were. Frankly, they waited longer than I would've to call the police.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

I am not sure if the homeowners responsibilty is to catch the criminal or simply to protect their lives and property in a similar situation, I would not be thinking of catching him - only eliminating the threat


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

"enough is enough" You can't take it anymore, so you get an alarm? Wow, there's a false sense of security. What exactly would the alarm have done in this situation? If the guy made it through and confronted you, there would have been only one appropriate response.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

Our alarm sounds a loud beep and if not set to off, then sounds an ear shattering alarm. However, the alarm company also calls to see what's up. Then they call the police if needed. By the time the police arrive, the intruders could be gone. It's that they've set off the alarm in the first place that we hope would scare them away.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

@Matt, you need to check the various jurisdictions on their alarm response protocols. Many don't send cars to investigate as the first step anymore.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Most alarm sustems nowadays don't just sound an audible alarm. They also immediately summon 911, which would have done much to make sure this couple were safe.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

An alarm might have scared him off if the home was equipped with alarms on that window. It works best if alarms are on all windows and doors. An owner should put in glass breaking sensors as well.

Roger Dodger

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Is it just me? I would have answered the door, and the kid would have gone away... Are people really so frightened they won't answer the door? What if it was an emergency and he needed help?


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

"Right. Confront the threat. In the dark." Just like I mentioned in your other rant, you haven't quite got it. But there is nothing dark about 8am unless there is a nasty thunderstorm looming.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 3:19 a.m.

djacks: "Any "man" of the house would confront the threat while the family stayed in the house with easy access to a phone and an option to find cover." Right. Confront the threat. In the dark. Not knowing if he's got a knife, or gun. Or friends. Or if and where he's hiding. And risk getting himself killed with no one there to protect his family after he's shot or stabbed. Right. Know any cops? Ask them if thats the smartest plan. I'm betting they tell you differently. But then again, tough guys ('real men' don't need to ask for a smart plan, they're just too tough to mess with. Right.

Harry Sammy

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 11:05 p.m.

Ypsilanti is not exactly mayberry, and most if not all people carry a cell phone, and yes most people are frightened to answer their door because of the economy and bad reputation that ypsilanti has.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

"After hearing the initial knock on the door, the Greffs decided not to answer it. But the knocking continued. "The person proceeded to bang on the door for 10 minutes," Rene recalled in a phone conversation with Monday afternoon. The boy then went into the backyard and continued knocking on windows and doors, ostensibly to see if anyone was home before making his move." I can understand not answering the door when you are not expecting anyone. I've done this also, but in these cases whoever is knocking simply goes away. But if they persisted, I'd be in their face. But to let someone bang on the door for several minutes and then bang on windows also? I'm glad the kid got caught, although him being 14 he'll likely just get a slap on the hand. But letting the kid bang and bang away until he gets in and then cowering in the bathroom on the phone isn't the best strategy either. Any "man" of the house would confront the threat while the family stayed in the house with easy access to a phone and an option to find cover. If anything is going to go down while answering the door, there is a good possibility of witnesses. Once they are already in the house, better chance for winding up a statistic.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

@Roger I would never tell someone how to deal with a situation like this - to each his own but I agree that simply "answering" the door would have likely ended this event as the burglar was apparently looking for an empty home knock knock "can I help you"? with the door closed and locked probably would have been enough i agree - never open the door to someone you dont know if you feel a threat - but answering the door is not the same as opening the door - same with an emergency - you can cll for help while staying safe inside "i am calling the police if you dont leave" would also likely have sent him scurrying

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

I would have answered the door with a gun. I would also suggest "answering the door" doesn't have to mean opening the door. I have two chains on my door that would allow it to be opened about 3 inches. If he wanted in under those circumstances that is when he would be looking down the barrel of a loaded weapon.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.



Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

If he needed help, he wouldn't have been banging for so long. If nobody answered he would have gone to the next house. This is a ploy criminals use all the time. Bang on the door, if someone answers they ask for Cindy or someone - then say "sorry - must have the wrong address". It is usually groups that get sent out - young kids that want to belong to a gang - that if they get arrested, since they are young, usually get charges dropped. They do the stealing, and the gang does the fencing. It is more prevalent out here in Southern CA. I know 3 people that it has happened to and I just moved out here. And I know more people that have been woken up early in the morning by some young kid that acts lost. This sounds more like an individual. Because with groups, when someone finds a house unoccupied, he calls the driver, and everybody smashes in the front door, grabs what they can and gets out. They don't care if the place has an alarm, because they are out of there before the police arrive. If no alarm, then they can take more time.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

I've read plenty of stories about thugs who use a ruse of "an emergency" to gain entry to homes and then rob and kill homeowners. Bad idea to even consider opening a door to a stranger.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

However, if they opened the door, he could have overpowered them or had a gun. Game over for the homeowners. Never open a door for a stranger.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

The progression of knocking as reported didn't sound like a cry for help. Also no description of the perp is provided, many 14 year olds are certainly bigger than you would think, why would you answer the door if you don't know the person? How many times have people on this very blog wondered just that in other stories where victims where assaulted after answering their doors?

Top Cat

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

They should get a German shepherd instead of an alarm and name it Bavarian Bliss.

sun runner

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

I think a chocolate Labrador named Espresso Love would also work. :)

John Counts

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

True, crime is never "pretty." Thanks for catching the typo. It's since been corrected.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 3:23 a.m.

Since we're into corrections snapshot, I hope you don't mind one aimed at you lol. Reference #6 on states an "audit" is: "to make an audit of; examine (accounts, records, etc.) for purposes of verification..." I does mention accounting practices, but not exclusively. Auditing covers any kind of recordkeeping, not just financial ones.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:28 a.m.

Cash, that would be "editors", "auditing" is an accounting function, as long as we're into corrections.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

You gave us such a fun day!

Unusual Suspect

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Wouldn't it be a better idea for you guys to catch these? I mean, being professionals and all?


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

Isn't it nice to have all of us as auditors? :-)


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:04 p.m.

So is graffiti considered a pretty crime?


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

With all that lead time, the 14 year old is lucky the victims didn't have a gun. The rest of us? Probably not so much.

Stupid Hick

Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 1:32 a.m.

I find it despicable that anyone would suggest 'the rest of us' would be lucky if a child were killed for trying to steal.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

And, I hope they follow though with charges against this young felon. Many yeas ago had a similar incident, and ended up pressing charges. Later, I found that he had been involved in 6 earlier break-ins whereby the charges where dropped. Live and learn that there are consequences to actions.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : noon

This couple has my congrats for handling it the way they did. I, for one, would probably be the person in jail this morning if it were my house.


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 4:22 a.m.

Makes two of us!


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

I'm pretty sure now that the criminals know where they live and that they are sucessful buisiness owners that they better get that alarm put in ASAP. Not to mention ave a better plan of acction than just hiiding in their bathroom. They are going to need it


Wed, Jul 25, 2012 : 2:54 a.m.

Just mention Uncle Dave, his 42 acres up north and the guard dogs to go with it. I am wondering though why they didn't just spook him? Did they think he had a gun or what? Kind of scary if you ask me.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

an alarm and a Big dog and a shotgun.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

thanks "paladin".


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 11:08 a.m.

I just read 3 stories, and each one had spelling errors. Depressing. At least this one wouldn't have been caught by spell-check.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

Where's Tom Petty when you need him?


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

I feel pretty.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

C'mon now. Don't forget that this is a "newspaper" in a highly educated town. Why should proper English grammar and spelling be expected? Stop being so "pretty."

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 10:47 a.m.

Crime can be ugly or petty, but it is seldom "pretty".


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

Dear Elaine, The period goes inside the quote marks. Normally, I don't comment on people's grammar, but since your comment corrects a mistake, I thought you wouldn't mind a correction yourself. Respectfully, BradP


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 10:39 a.m.

To the Greffs: I am glad you are safe. Good job staying out of the burglar's way, and calling police.


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 10:34 a.m.

Oops. . . End of second-to-last sentence: "target for "pretty" crime". . .