By Jason Schock
Once “Birdcage Bridge” long ago closed over Muddy Creek northeast of Falls City, all sorts of hijinx welcomely became a thing of the past near the Chaffee household adjacent to Brenner Field. With one way in and, most importantly, one way out, even high school-aged young people quickly deduced there were better places to misbehave.
Even Halloween is largely uneventful these days for Philip and Sandra Chaffee, who’ve lived at Brenner Field for 29 years. “We don’t even get trick-or-treaters,” Mrs. Chaffee said. On a handful of occasions the last three decades, she said, pilots have knocked on the door late at night seeking Philip, the airport manager, and in need of fuel. But only rarely.
So it was no trick, nor was it a treat, then, when a couple days after Halloween — in the very early morning hours of Wednesday, Nov. 4, to be exact — the couple got spooked in a real way when they awoke to find a stranger standing in their bedroom.
“I thought I heard someone in the hallway,” Mrs. Chaffee said, “but figured it was our son and closed my eyes. Then I heard another noise and just kind of set up in bed – there was a man standing right in our doorway. I let out a little shriek and the man said, ‘Sorry, I thought this was my grandparent’s house.’
“It was very frightening,” she said.
Philip, who sleeps with a pistol by his side, grabbed the firearm and, with his wife directly at his heels, gave methodical inventory of the house. They found lights on and the living room door open; the intruder had quickly fled and didn’t take any of the Chaffee’s possessions.
“We didn’t know if he was hiding in another room, but he moved rather quickly,” Mrs. Chaffee said.
After calling 9-1-1, FC Police Officers Patrick Stamper and Jeremy Goldsberry responded to the scene within minutes. The suspect was located and arrested moments later near one of the hangars at Brenner Field.
Joshua Miles Hontz, 34, of Shelton, WA, had made the 30-hour drive during what he, in a letter to Judge Curtis Maschman, referred to as “a psychotic break.”
Hontz, an Air Force veteran with no criminal past, had parked his car in Falls City and had walked toward the beacon lights of Brenner Field. He was detained for nearly a week on charges of criminal trespass in the first degree, prescribed the necessary medications and then released on his own personal recognizance Tuesday morning, Nov. 10. He was ordered to see his Veteran’s Service officer immediately upon returning to Shelton and report back to the Court. For the time being, Hontz is due back in Richardson County Court Dec. 14 on the trespassing charge.
“I delusionally drove through here all the way from Washington state,” Hontz wrote in his statement to the Court. “I need to please return home and see my therapist at the VA. I am sorry I scared that woman by stumbling into her house. I was out of my right mind. I need medical treatment, not corrections.”
Apparently, the door Hontz used to enter the Chaffee residence was not locked, which was a rarity. Going forth, it’s likely more of an impossibility.
“There was one in a million chance that door wasn’t locked,” Mrs. Chaffee said.
By Jason Schock