By Jeff Lehr
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Four armed men’s invasion of a home and terrorizing of a family in the middle of the night in northeast Newton County may have been a case of hitting the wrong house.
Sheriff Ken Copeland said the members of the family of four, including a baby and toddler, were asleep about 2 a.m. Thursday at their home on Raccoon Road.
“They heard a loud banging at the front door, and the door was kicked in before they could even get out of bed,” Copeland said.
Four men with guns burst into the bedroom where all four family members were sleeping and took the husband into a bathroom, where they began pistol-whipping him, the sheriff said.
“They kept demanding drugs and money, of which the occupants didn’t have either,” Copeland said.
He said the intruders also threatened the mother several times in an effort to get the couple to give up a large amount of cash and crack cocaine that the four apparently believed was in their possession.
As it became apparent the couple did not have any cache of drugs or money, the intruders gathered near the front of the house to discuss the matter, Copeland said. The couple seized the opportunity to grab their children and flee out the back of their home, the sheriff said.
The men then left, taking only a small amount of money that the mother had in the house. The father was treated at a Joplin hospital for the injuries he sustained and was released.
Copeland said the victims did not recognize the intruders, who apparently had apparently gone to the wrong house.
A witness reported seeing a blue Ford Taurus in the area at the time, and detectives later learned that a car matching that description stopped for gasoline about 3 a.m. at a convenience store in Sarcoxie.
The sheriff said the clerk on duty reported the matter to Sarcoxie police because the vehicle initially pulled up behind the store and then came back around and stopped at the gas pump the farthest away from the store building. Copeland said there were four occupants of the car, but just one went inside to pay for $30 worth of gasoline.
The clerk on duty thought their behavior was suspicious and called Sarcoxie police. The men left before officers arrived, but detectives investigating the home invasion were able to retrieve surveillance camera footage of the man who entered the store.
Copeland said the victims have identified the suspect as one of the men who broke into their home.
Request for help
Authorities say they are asking that anyone who recognizes the man photographed to contact the Newton County sheriff’s office at 417-451-8300.