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News / Clark County News

Man accused of break-in at Hazel Dell escape-room business

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published: July 9, 2018, 9:05pm

A man called 911 to report his own alleged break-in at a Hazel Dell escape-room business early Sunday morning.

An escape room challenges players to solve a series of riddles or puzzles in a set amount of time to “escape” the room.

Tamara Bertrand, the owner of NW Escape Experience, said she got a call from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office about 5 a.m. Sunday. A deputy told her someone broke into the business, located in a strip mall at 1503 N.E. 78th St., Suite 7.

Bertrand said deputies told her the man first tried to break in through the business’ back door. When that didn’t work, he got inside the office park’s electrical service closet, where he found a key to the empty suite next door to NW Escape Experience.

Bertrand said the man opened a shared door between the two spaces, tipping over storage lockers in her business.

Judging by the office phone’s history, the intruder called 911 four times, she said.

Responding deputies found and arrested Rye Wardlaw, 40, on suspicion of three counts of second-degree burglary.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Clark County Superior Court, deputies were dispatched to the strip mall after someone called from inside NW Escape Experience, claiming he ran to the business because his home was being burglarized.

The address he provided for the home did not exist, deputies said.

When deputies arrived at the strip mall, they discovered the front door of NW Escape Experience was unlocked, then they heard a loud bang from behind the building.

Deputies found the back door handle to the business broken and later discovered the electrical room had been broken into as well, the affidavit states.

One deputy drove around to the other side of the building, according to court records, where he found Wardlaw walking away. When the deputy contacted him, Wardlaw dropped a cellphone. He stated it was his, denied being near or behind the building, then was detained.

Wardlaw subsequently told deputies he opened a lockbox that held keys to the building and used one to enter the electrical room. He said he was trying to check whether the gas was working, according to court documents.

Wardlaw told deputies he punched through a wall in the service closet to the escape room business’ bathroom, then found the front door to a nearby physical therapy business was unlocked. He said he went inside that business’ bathroom to eat a burrito, according to court records.

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Wardlaw said he then walked over to NW Escape Experience and entered through an unlocked front door. There, he found the phone that he later dropped while fleeing, he said, and took its storage card, the affidavit states.

According to court records, Wardlaw said he’s homeless and had no place to be. He also said he broke the back door handle by accident and called 911 to report himself, but left when he got scared.

Bertrand said the damage was fairly minor, and they were back in business in time for a full day Sunday.

“We now have a zero percent escape rate with criminals,” she said, jokingly.

Wardlaw’s bail was set at $40,000, and his next court date was scheduled for July 20.

Columbian environment and transportation reporter