CAMAS — Sometimes, Jenn Mock does “tests” where she rings the doorbell at her home in the Fern Prairie area to see if her daughters will answer it. She’s trained them not to answer the door and not to answer the phone unless Mom, Dad or Grandma is calling.
But Tuesday afternoon wasn’t a drill.
Paityn Mock, 10, was home alone with a fever, watching “Zooey 101” on the couch in her living room. Jenn had left the house to get Paityn a sandwich from the Subway on Southeast 192nd Avenue, about six miles from her home.
Around 1:30 p.m., Paityn heard the doorbell ring several times and a saw a teenage boy wearing a red and black jersey through the front window. She called her mom, who told her not to answer the door, and then Paityn hung up.
When she heard someone enter the house, she called her mom again, who told her to hang up and call 911.
An intruder had cut the screen in an open window at the back of the house, next to the master bedroom, and come inside to unlock the front door.
As Paityn called 911 from the kitchen pantry, she looked through the pantry window and saw an unfamiliar car parked in her driveway with a man in the driver’s seat. The driver pulled out and went down the gravel driveway to the front of the property.
Paityn started to sneak out of the pantry when she saw another male intruder wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt in her living room. So, she darted back into the pantry and waited till the coast was clear to make a break for the garage.
“I felt really nervous and scared,” Paityn said. “But I didn’t exactly pour (cry) my eyes out.”
She slammed the door as she left the kitchen, opened the garage door, and then hid behind a small tree in the front yard. Worried she might be seen, Paityn ran across the driveway to hide behind a larger tree next to the family’s garden, where she stood waiting for police in the mud.
All the while, Jenn Mock was racing the six miles back home.
“I just panicked,” she said.
Within minutes, Deputy Rick Buckner with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the house near Grove Field, north of Camas. He was arresting the driver, thought to be 23, at the end of the Mocks’ driveway when Jenn Mock got home. Jenn went inside the house, calling for Paityn, before finding her outside by the tree.
“I’m shocked that she was that calm and collected,” Jenn Mock said. “I can’t be more proud of her.”
At the same time, the Washougal Police Department got a call about a suspicious vehicle that had showed up at another house an hour earlier, said Sgt. Tony Barnes with the sheriff’s office. The residence, which also had a long driveway like the Mocks’, was burglarized. The description of the car and description of the suspects matched what Paityn told police, Barnes said.
Meanwhile at the Mock home, police called in two police dogs and started searching the area for the remaining suspects. None was found.
The name of the arrested man was not released.
News of the break-in spread around Camas after Jenn Mock called Lacamas Heights Elementary School to have her younger daughter, Camryn, 9, driven home by a teacher.
Jenn took her daughters to get pedicures and manicures just after the police dog finished searching their house.
The man who was arrested was cooperating with police and helping them identify the other suspects who got away, Barnes said.
The burglars pilfered through costume jewelry in the master bedroom on the first floor, stuffing it into a pillowcase they left by the back door. They also went through the girls’ rooms and another room, and opened the entertainment center in the living room. Nothing appeared to be stolen. They didn’t even touch a laptop sitting on an ottoman in the living room.
“Had she not been here, my house would have been cleared out,” Jenn Mock said, adding she probably would have been out running errands if Paityn wasn’t sick.
The Mock family moved from Vancouver to Camas five years ago. Being at the end of a rural road, Jenn Mock said it’s rare when people come to their door.
While kids are often told not to answer the door if they’re home alone, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Fred Neiman said parents should talk to their kids about what to do in case of a break-in.
It’s a topic people don’t talk about, he said, especially in rural areas where there are secluded residences. They should have a plan of what to do, whether it’s run to a neighbor’s house, or use a cell phone to call 911 and their parents.
Jenn Mock plans to get window sensors put in. There are already door and motion sensors in the house, but she hadn’t set them when she left to get Paityn a sandwich.
It’ll be a while before Paityn and Camryn will be allowed to stay home alone, their mom vows.
Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; email@example.com.