LUMBERTON — An Elizabethtown police officer enjoying a day off found himself suddenly back on the job Friday afternoon when he came home to discover it was being burglarized.
With the help of a Robeson County sheriff’s deputy, two intruders have been arrested.
Officer Richard Yandle and his wife had left their house on N.C. 41 North near Bladen County at about 12:45 p.m. to grab some lunch at Taco Bell, and when they returned he spotted a car he didn’t recognize.
“I saw a white SUV parked in my driveway,” Yandle said. “I didn’t think anything of it, I figured it was someone turning around … but I looked and saw the guy actually turn and kick my door in.”
Yandle, whose wife is pregnant, parked the car so she would be protected, then drew his off-duty weapon.
“I’m glad I did it the way I did it,” Yandle said. “Training kind of takes over in tough situations.”
Yandle confronted the driver and was able to stall him for a while before he drove away in an off-white or gold Ford Explorer or Mercury Mountaineer.
Yandle saw the door to his house was open and two people were inside. He identified himself as an off-duty officer — and let the culprits know it was his house they had broken into.
A woman jumped out a window and as Yandle chased her, a man who was in the house fled the same way and ran into the woods.
Yandle was able to cuff 24-year-old Jillian Victoria Leach while he waited for sheriff’s deputies to arrive. Deputy Steven Lewis took a report and “kind of said ‘I’ll stick around and help you, bud’,” according to Yandle.
About four hours later, Yandle received a call from Lewis, who was patrolling the area. There was someone in the woods behind his house.
“He said get your gun, get your cuffs, I need some help apprehending this guy,” Yandle said. After a brief struggle, they arrested 23-year-old John Frank Leach.
“If it wasn’t for (Lewis), we wouldn’t have gotten the second one,” Yandle said.
Deputies were able to recover a necklace belonging to Yandle’s wife. The intruders did not get far with a television, a pair of boots and some other items it appears they tried to take out the door, Yandle said.
Jillian Leach, who lives on Hickorywood Drive in Fayetteville, is charged with breaking and entering and larceny after breaking and entering. She has been jailed under a $100,000 bond, according to Maj. Anthony Thompson, chief of detectives for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office.
John Leach, of High Street in Lumberton, faces the same charges and bond. Thompson said he was not sure if the two are related.
According to the state Department of Public Safety, Jillian Leach has been convicted several times of breaking and entering and assault. John Leach has also been convicted on charges of breaking and entering and larceny and was charged with possessing a weapon while in jail for those crimes.
“I didn’t expect it to happen on my day off when I was just getting something to eat,” Yandle said. “… What are the chances that I ride by right when they’re kicking my door in?”
The Ford Explorer or Mercury Mountaineer has a dent in the back and white lettering on the back window, according to Yandle. The driver is described as a tall black man with short dreadlocks.