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PD: Man Charged With Home Invasion, Setting Fire to 90-Year-Old Woman's Home

Middletown Police say the suspect broke down the victim's door while she slept, forcing her to jump out a window into the snow, stole her jewels and SUV, and was only trying to save his neighbor from the blaze.

Robert Mitchell Jr. Credit: Middletown Police
Robert Mitchell Jr. Credit: Middletown Police

A 32-year-old city man is being held on a $1 million bond on a litany of serious charged after he broke into a 90-year-old woman's home in the middle of the night and started a fire while she slept inside, according to Middletown Police.

On Jan. 6 at 1 a.m., police were called to a home on Boston Road after a 911 call made to dispatch in which a male's voice and banging noises could be heard, according to the report, and when officers arrived they saw there was a fire inside and Robert J. Mitchell Jr., 32, of Boston Road was driving the 90-year-old resident's Chevy Tracker sports utility vehicle out of the driveway.

Mitchell got out of the car, police say, and told officers the house was on fire just as the victim came around the back of her house in a bathrobe, screaming Mitchell had broken into her home and stolen her car.

Officers found the kitchen floor and a chair were in flames inside a foot and a half high and once the fire was extinguished, the report goes on, they could see the door had been broken, a window smashed, and phone ripped from the wall. Firefighters discovered two gasoline cans in the garage with fluid leaking and a funnel inserted into one of them, according to accounts. 

A search revealed two pearl necklaces and two gold chains in his pocket, which, the report says, Mitchell claimed were rosary beads he had picked up. When questioned, he insisted he had been outside his home, two-tenths of a mile away, enjoying a cigarette when he saw his neighbor's house was on fire, entered and tried to put it out with rugs, police indicate.

Mitchell told officers he knew a 90-year-old lady lived there alone and he had called 911 about the fire and, upon finding her car keys inside on a counter, tried to drive it to safety because he is a "trained mechanic" who knew it could blow up in a fire, records say. Inside the victim's car, police located a backpack and spade-type shovel that Mitchell insisted he brought from home to put out the fire, the report says. Inside the backpack, detectives found a large meat cleaver and black BB handgun which looked real, police say.

The victim, who was being treated at Middlesex Hospital, told officers she was asleep earlier when she heard a loud crash and banging, then someone yelling, "Grandma! Grandma!" and yelling about a fire. She ran into a bedroom, the report says, with a phone and slid a desk in front of the door to block the intruder's entry, called 911 but no one answered, which is when she made the decision to go out the window. "I was afraid he was going to kill me," she told police.

The report says she got stuck, fell out of the window onto her back in the snow and couldn't get up because of her knee replacement surgery so she used a bush to hoist herself up. She later learned she had cut her leg.

Police say the victim planned on running to a neighbor's home for safety when she saw "the bad guy" backing her car out of the driveway and a police cruiser arriving. The report says the victim acknowledged she had a metal gas can with gasoline inside in her garage.

Upon questioning, Mitchell told officers he had a verbal argument with his mother on Jan. 5 at 11 p.m., packed his backpack and went into the woods near his home, passed out and woke up a few hours later then tried to get back into his house without his keys. The report says he used a shovel to break a window but couldn't get inside and walked down the street to the victim's home, broke the front door to enter, took jewelry and the car keys and started the fire. He admitted knowing the victim was home at the time, police indicate.

Mitchell was arrested for home invasion, first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, third-degree larceny, first-degree criminal mischief, first-degree reckless endangerment and interfering with an emergency call. He's being held on a $1M bond until his Jan. 28 appearance in Middletown Superior Court.

The warrant indicates Mitchell has been referred to detoxification as a special condition of his arrest by the judge.

Linda G January 07, 2014 at 04:45 PM
Unbelievable! Kharma's a bi**h and it will come back to haunt you! To do this to an elderly woman is beyond inhumane! I have no pity for what you've got coming! Terrible.....glad she is ok.....
L C January 07, 2014 at 05:16 PM
It is a miracle she made it and without hypothermia...but why did no one answer her 911 call? Hmmm
JoAnn Midkiff January 08, 2014 at 10:15 AM
This story is downright frightening. last year my husband found a door on line called gibraltdoor, it is a steel door on a steel frame, Nobody is coming thru our door! I refuse to be a victim and will do whatever is necessary to protect my family. I have peace of mind when I'm home and away. go see there video online at Gibraltdoor and see for yourself!
Ian Battles January 09, 2014 at 01:58 AM
He's lucky he didn't break into the home of someone equipped to defend themselves...

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