Home invasion experience still haunts resident

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

It was late on a cold March 30, 2008, night and 82-year-old Jo Ann Vickers of Portales was already in bed when her doorbell rang.

Vickers got up, looked outside her front door, but didn’t see anything.

She walked back to her bedroom.

“I heard a noise that wasn’t normal,” she remembers. “So I got up and headed down the hallway when I met them.

“It’s a pretty long hallway, so I couldn’t get out.”

Vickers had just become a victim of a home invasion.

“I tried to push back and shove back and fight back — and I don’t know why I thought I should’ve done that. That was to no avail, of course,” Vickers said. “That was probably dumb, because I think they were going to do whatever they wanted to anyway. I didn’t scare them a bit.”

In fact, Vickers was beaten by the invaders and left for dead in her own home.

As Vickers lie crumpled in agony on the hallway floor with a broken femur, the intruders kept stepping over her while robbing the house of jewelry and other possessions.

Finally, they left.

Vickers, unable to walk, crawled the length of the house to the kitchen and yanked the phone off the receiver using the cord. No dial tone. Her attackers had disabled the phone.

Vickers summoned what strength she had left, crawling to the front door. After pushing it open, she dragged herself onto the front porch and began weakly crying for anyone to help.

About midnight, after what seemed hours to Vickers, a 16-year-old girl who lived across the street got curious about what sounded to her like a kitten meowing. She walked over to Vickers’ home discovering the injured woman and summoned help.

The nightmare was over — although the effects still linger.

Vickers’ testimony in court would help send three men to prison. Preston Blake, 25, was sentenced to 41 years, Joel Zertuche, 19, got 12 years and Jay Brian Steward, 21, received a six-year sentence.

For Vickers, memories of the incident resound.

“That’s the reason I try not to think about it too much, because I don’t want to get frightened,” said Vickers, who decided to remain in the same house. “I’ve had two spells in the hospital since that incident. My heart was not beating regularly and they told me to try not to get anxious about things.

“I’ve got all kinds of changes on the house — with my children’s help. My grandson’s with me now. It’s changed my whole way of living,” she added.

Lonnie Berry, deputy chief at the Portales Police Department, said the city hasn’t had a reported home invasion in about a year. He said incidents such as the Vickers’ break-in, along with another series of forced entries about the same time, leads to more vigilance not only from the police department but by residents of the town.

“We readjusted our schedules so we could have more people out, so we could look for patterns and other things we could do,” Berry said. “It’s something we really want to take care of very quickly.”

Police have also helped concerned residents organize neighborhood watches.

Vickers continues to look out for herself — although she credits her fellow townspeople of Portales.

“If she (the neighbor girl) hadn’t come home, there’s so many ifs…,” said Vickers, trailing off in thought. “I think the prayers of the people in Portales, I guess just about everyone was praying, are what saved me.”