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Girl's whispered 911 call helps Warren cops break burglary ring

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
Brian Conner and his wife, Geri, talk about their 15-year-old daughter, who called police while thieves were ransacking their home.

Warren — A frightened teenage girl, huddled in the basement of her family's home while thieves roamed inside looking for valuables, gave Warren police the break they needed to nab three men suspected of burglarizing at least 20 homes.

At a news conference Friday, Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer said the girl's whispered 911 call Wednesday alerted police to an ongoing break-in at her home, leading officers to arrest the three Detroit men.

"We have to thank a brave 15-year-old girl for helping in these arrests," he said.

Dwyer played a 911 recording in which the girl reported three men had broken a rear window to the home and could be heard going room-to-room.

"I'm in the basement under the stairs," the girl whispered to the dispatcher. "... Two dogs are barking at them."

The dispatcher kept the girl on the line until police arrived outside a few minutes later. 

Dwyer said the intruders tried to barricade themselves in an upstairs room and police had to force their way inside to make the arrests.

The girl was unharmed but remains anxious over the experience, said her parents, Brian and Geri Conner.

"I don't know if I could have been as cool and calm as her," said her father, saying he and her mother were both very proud of their daughter's foresight to hide somewhere safe and call for help.

The girl told her mother she hopes to someday be a 911 operator taking such calls to help people. Dwyer said he wants the girl to visit the department when she turns 21 "so we can recruit her."

Dejhan Marshall, 20; Carleton Ashford, 28; and Cedrick Ashford, 26, all of Detroit, were arraigned Friday by Judge Matthew Sabaugh of 37th District Court. 

Each defendant is charged with home invasion and conspiracy to commit home invasion, both felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison and resisting and obstructing police, a felony punishable by up to two years in prison.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer discusses the arrest of suspects believed to have committed up to 20 home robberies  during a press conference Friday.

Sabaugh set bond at $250,000 for Marshall and $500,000 for the Ashfords and ordered them to return to court June 18.

"This is an ongoing investigation," Dwyer said. "It's possible before it's over we will find they are responsible for other home invasions, including extending into Oakland and Wayne counties."

Based on the work of the Warren Police Investigative Services Bureau, search warrants were executed Thursday at four addresses in Detroit and Macomb County where officers seized more than 200 pieces of jewelry believed to have been taken in earlier home invasions, Dwyer said. 

Several pieces of the jewelry — ranging from rings to necklaces and watches — remain unclaimed. People who believe they might have been stolen from their homes are asked to call the Warren detective bureau at (586) 574-4793.

Some of the recovered items from the home robberies in Warren.

Another Warren resident who attended the press conference, Ruth Ceci, said her home was broken into twice between April 15 and 25. Ceci said she has lived there for 52 years but is so traumatized that she's staying at another location, at least for now.

"I had gone to church (the first time) and they must have been watching me," Ceci said. "I put in a security system and they came back and broke in again.

"I'm glad they have the people believed responsible but I'm too afraid to go back right now and don't know when I will — if ever."

Warren Mayor James Fouts said every resident should feel "their home is their castle" and they are safe.

"We want this to stand as a reminder to residents they are safe and we will go where ever we need to get the people responsible," Fouts said. "And for those who think they are going to get away with something like this, it's not going to be tolerated in Warren."

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