Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Our Own Richard Kimble
This is a true story. Only the names have been changed, to protect the innocent and the guilty.
A few weeks ago, while walking to shul for mincha on Shabbat afternoon, I encountered our next door neighbor, Aaron, walking with Steven, his oldest son, age fourteen, and a guy who looked to be about my age, maybe a few years younger. Aaron introduced me to the stranger, Elijah, who said that he was living in downtown Detroit while attending University of Michigan law school. Elijah seemed kind of strange but I didn't think much about it afterwards.
Aaron told me the next day how he and his wife, Anne, came to host Elijah. Around Passover, a family with whom our neighbors are friends met Elijah in a local kosher grocery store. The wife and Elijah got to talking and she invited him to spend Shabbat with her family. A few weeks later, that family made a bar mitzvah, which was why Elijah and his fiancee stayed next door to us.
Last Wednesday, while I was still at work, Lesley answered a knock at the front door. She opened it to find Elijah and his fiancee, whom she had not met yet, asking to see our house, which we are selling. She asked who he was and he said that he had met me and was friends with our neighbors. She said the place was not totally clean but he said that it was not a big deal since he and his fiancee were both slobs. I arrived home just as Lesley finished giving them the tour. We sat and talked for a few minutes, during which Elijah said that they really wanted our house, either to rent, buy or a combination of both. I told him that I would seriously consider any offer.
I saw him again on Shabbat afternoon as he exited our neighbors' house, where he was again staying. He told me how he wanted to get together to make an offer. When he asked what I would be doing that night, I told him that I would be watching the Pistons game. When he tried to invite himself to watch it, I said I wasn't sure where I would be watching. I actually knew that I would watch it at home but had no desire to spend time with him socially, just to sell him my house. He seemed like a nice guy but very strange.
Yesterday, Lesley and I were watching television (we're watching the first season of "Lost", which is great) when Anne called. She told me that Elijah told her and Aaron during Shabbat that he served five years in prison for a drug conviction. The problem was that his name did not appear on the Michigan or federal department of corrections inmate search. There was someone, though, with the same last name but a different first name who looked awfully like Elijah. His first name was Norman. Instead of a drug conviction, Norman had done a few years for home invasion. Also, he is currently violating his parole. The violation went into the corrections system on April 18, 2006, right around the time the Norman/Elijah first met our neighbors' friend and started spending nearly every Shabbat and Sunday afternoon in the community.
We found a few other things. I ran both first names with the last name on a site my company uses to find people. There was no record of either name ever residing in Michigan. I also ran Norman/Elijah's last name on the University of Michigan student/faculty directory. Neither first name appears. When Anne told me that Norman/Elijah said that he attended Brown University for undergraduate, I called a friend who went there. My friend also found no record of either Norman or Elijah. Lastly, at least two local retail establishments have told Anne that Norman has bounced checks in the past week or two.
Needless to say, this raises serious questions and concerns in our minds. First and foremost, this guy has been throughout our entire house. He knows the layout as well as the fact that our dogs, for as intimidating as some might think, are very friendly and would not hurt a fly, even if one of them has been guilty of stealing and eating hot dog buns. We have obviously started locking our door at all times, even when we are home during the day and would normally otherwise leave it unlocked.
It also raises the question of whether, according to halacha, it would be appropriate for us to report this guy to the authorities. Last night I posed this question to our rabbi, who said that reporting would only be permissible if the guy is a threat to people. Not having seen his court file yet, I don't know whether he is a threat, but I intend to look into that tomorrow while downtown.
Of course, the real home invader might have been a one armed man whom Norman is trying to bring to justice.