Bizarre Home Invasion/Burglary Described in Magistrate Court

The​​ bizarre details of a puzzling May 17 burglary emerged in Dade Magistrate Court this morning as one of the arrestees in that case, Amber Anna Turner (left), appeared before Magistrate Joel McCormick for a preliminary hearing.

Eric Inman (below) made local headlines when he attempted to break out of the Dade County jail in the small hours of May 18.

“They told him, you aren’t getting out until you see a judge," Sgt. Chad Payne, information officer for the Dade County Sheriff’s Department reported at the time. "And he said, ‘I’m going to get out one way or the other.’”

Inman’s great escape was foiled by surprised deputies who found him tearing out ceiling tiles in a holding area of the jail. They Tased him in the ensuing scuffle.

But though charges of attempting to escape and inciting riot in a penal institution were added to the burglary charges for which he had been arrested in the first place, Inman, 36, of Hollywood, Ala., finally did get out “one way or the other”—he posted $10,000 bail and was released on bond May 25.

​Meanwhile, Amber Turner, 30, the female companion with whom Inman was arrested, has languished behind bars since the two were charged with burglary and theft by taking on Ponderosa Drive last month. Public Defender Jennifer Hartline, who is representing Ms. Turner, told Magistrate McCormick that she was unable to pay the bond to get out.

At these preliminary hearings, suspects appear with their attorneys but are not themselves questioned as prosecutors--in this case Assistant District Len Gregor of the Lookout Mountain Judicial District--and police witnesses--in this case, Sgt. Casey York, K-9 officer of the Dade County Sheriff's Office--present the evidence against them.

Sgt. Casey told the magistrate that he had arrived on Ponderosa Drive Thursday afternoon, May 17, in response to a burglary-in-progress call. The resident of the home in question, unable to get sufficient signal to call himself, had texted his wife, who worked at Davis Elementary School, to call the police. She had duly alerted the school resource officer, who in turn alerted the sheriff's office.

Sgt. York and another deputy arrived at the Ponderosa Drive home within a few seconds of each other, he testified, and the other deputy detained Inman while York approached Ms. Turner, who appeared to be sleeping--he suspected she was faking it--in the front seat of a white pickup truck parked in front of the house.

Sgt. York testified that Ms. Turner told him Inman had been giving her a ride home when he said he "had to make a quick stop." She told York Inman wasn't a friend she hung out with but that she knew him from going to school with him.

York said Ms. Turner seemed hyperactive, unable to sit still or make eye contact, seemingly under the influence of some stimulant drug. When he questioned Eric Inman, York found him also over-animated and unable to stand still, and made the same assumption.

Inman told the deputy he hadn't been taking Ms. Turner home, she was just riding around with him, and that he knew the resident of the Ponderosa Drive home from having gone to school with him, too. As for what he was doing at the man's home, said York, Inman had told him, "We're actually fixing to start a church."

The resident, said York, told a far different story. He did remember the suspect from schooldays but he knew nothing about any church they were starting together.

The pickup truck and its occupants, the resident told York, had come to his home a total of three times that day. The first time, he had still been in bed and had heard a knock at the door and the doorknob turning. It had taken him some little time to get out of bed and to the door, and in the interim the truck had gone.

The second time the truck backed into his yard, the resident testified, he had gone out and confronted Inman, who had begun retrieving and giving to the resident items from the truck that the resident recognized as coming from his deck, from the fishing boat he had parked in the yard, and from inside the house itself. These included a rotisserie, a bottle of Turtle Wax, softball equipment, some sort of insulators and a bag of garbage. "The value would be very low," said York. York said he'd looked up the insulators online and most didn't cost more than $5 or $8 new.

Also among the peculiar haul was paperwork, including the resident's daughter's math homework, which the resident remembered as being in a desk drawer in the girl's bedroom, as well as a highly visible pink index card from her school he last remembered seeing in the laundry room. That, and a peculiar question Inman asked--did a special-needs child live in the home?--convinced the resident Inman had been inside his home. Inside the house was medical equipment that could lead an observer to that conclusion, he had explained to York.

The householder said he'd told Inman to leave, and Inman had left. But then, in 15 minutes to half an hour, said the resident, the truck reappeared in his yard. That's when he texted his wife to call the police rather than confronting the suspect again.

"He suffers from PTSD," testified York. "He was past his level of being able to deal with it."

York testified that other witnesses recognized Inman and Ms. Turner as having been in the neighborhood earlier that day, "acting strange." They had gone to a local car repair shop and asked to have their air conditioning checked, said York.

"This is an odd case," said ADA Gregor.

Magistrate McCormick bound Ms. Turner's case over to Superior Court for later trial, but because of the low value of the items allegedly stolen from the home he lowered the charges to misdemeanor burglary.

He promised to consider releasing Ms. Turner from jail but she remained there later today, according to the sheriff's office. Defense attorney Hartline had explained her client's release would be contingent on prosecutor Gregor's recommendations as to flight danger.

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