Police seek saw-wielding mailbox vandal

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Police are still investigating an incident last week involving a vandalized mailbox that culminated with a Williston woman discovering a teenager with a hacksaw in her front yard.

Joy Karnes, who lives in Southridge, said she was awakened in the early morning hours of July 19 by her ringing doorbell. No one was at the door. She said it was a recurring problem — kids “ringing and running” in the middle of the night.

However, Karnes was also aware that they often returned to the same house after the resident had gone back to bed. So, Karnes waited by the front door and watched for a returning prankster.

When she spotted a figure crossing her front lawn, she opened the door to surprise the person. And there, standing before her, bathed in Karnes’ front door light, was a young male carrying a hacksaw — an echo of many horror movies.

Karnes said she tried to make a sound, but the fright of seeing a male wielding a hacksaw in the middle of the night rendered her speechless.

However, the teen was also clearly afraid, she said, because he turned pale and bolted. The teen did not attempt to get into the house, contrary to a Williston Police Department press release and subsequent media reports last week.

When the teen ran, he headed east through the field behind the residences on Goodrich Drive. Karnes believes she heard him calling to acquaintances, but she did not see anyone else. Released by the teen’s flight, Karnes then began to scream.

“I’ve never been that close to hysterical before,” she said.

Williston police officers searched the area with assistance from the Essex Police Department, which provided an infrared camera, and a K-9 unit from the Hinesburg Police Department. The K-9 dog lost the scent of the suspect at the pool area across the field.

Williston Officer Dan Gowans said police recovered the hat. He said officers also found that a mailbox had been cut down — the apparent reason for the suspect was carrying the saw.

The suspect is described as a white male in his late teens with dark brown hair and freckles on his face. He was last seen wearing a dark hat, a dark hooded sweatshirt with a round white logo on the back and khaki shorts. Karnes gave police a description for a composite portrait of the suspect.

Karnes showed the composite to some of her neighbors last week. She believes it was a neighborhood kid. She said there are 32 households with children between the ages of 12 and 20 in Southridge.

Multiple neighbors identified the same Southridge teenager. However, Gowans said he interviewed the teen and ruled him out because of his appearance and location the night of the incident.

“It wasn’t him,” Gowans said.

Gowans said police continue to investigate the case and hope to receive help from the public. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Williston Police Department at 878-6611.