MINOOKA – After a week’s vacation, most people look forward to coming home and sleeping in their own bed.
After a trip in June, however, the Donley family could not bring themselves to do this after discovering strangers had been sleeping in their beds, as well as eating their food, wearing their clothes and treating their home like a frat house while they were away.
Compounding their pain and frustration is the reality that, because they trusted their teenage neighbor with a key so she could enter their Minooka home to feed the family cat, no criminal charges can be brought against her despite the devastation she allowed.
And the Donley’s cat wasn’t even fed.
Mike Quinlan, assistant Grundy County State’s Attorney, explained that by giving their 15-year-old neighbor – who had lived near them for three years – the key and permission to be inside the house, Theresa and Alan Donley essentially gave her “control and custody” of their home. So, when she invited others inside for a party – even one that lasted for several days – no laws were broken.
Charges have been filed against two other men involved with the incident, although charges against a Channahon teen stem not from the incidents inside the home, but from damage to Alan Donley’s truck.
“We permitted one person into our home and, apparently, one person can bring anyone in our house and there is no recourse if we are not here to say, ‘No, you can’t be here,’ ” Theresa Donley said through tears. “Even if you don’t know that they were ever there.”
The family was gone for a week, starting June 19. The day before they were to return home, to their shock, they received a call from Minooka police.
They were told their pickup truck had been in an accident and asked if anyone had permission to be in their home.
Aside from the 15-year-old neighbor, who in the past had baby-sat their children and watched their cat, no one else had been given such permission, they told police.
“The police came in and found two people in our bed, drugs, the house was torn up with food, stains, the carpet wrecked, drugs and pills, vomit all over the carpet in the basement, and fireworks were let off in the basement,” Theresa Donley said.
The catsitter was not one of the people in the bed.
Donley indicated money also had been stolen from their coin containers and even their children’s piggybanks.
Property that had been stolen from vehicles in the neighborhood was found in the home.
After police conducted interviews, it was learned eight to 12 people had been partying in the house, leaving a huge mess behind, Donley said.
As a result of the rehab that needed to be done to their home, and the emotional toll, Theresa and Alan Donley and their two small children moved out of their house for eight weeks. In that time, the home was cleaned, carpeted and painted.
And multiple items were replaced.
In fact, they only kept five pieces of their original furniture.
“What I’d really like is some apologies made to us,” Theresa Donley said.
They have spoken with the would-be catsitter’s parents briefly and the parents said they were sorry, but they have heard nothing from the girl, nor any of the other teenagers involved.
Kai Fleckenstein, 18, Channahon, was charged, according to Quinlan, with two counts of possession of a stolen motor vehicle – one for the Donley pickup, which had been parked in the family’s garage when they left on their trip, and one for another unrelated vehicle.
Joseph Panek, 18, Minooka, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Panek was one of the people found in the Donleys’ bed.
Both pleaded guilty to the charges against them. Panek was sentenced to 12 months conditional discharge and fined. Fleckenstein has been enrolled in the drug court program.
Drug court provides offenders a structured program of treatment, counseling, mandatory drug testing, judicial monitoring, immediate sanctions and incentives, and overall support from the drug court team to help offenders re-enter the community as healthy, productive citizens.
Criminals can be entered in the program even if their offense is not a drug charge, but occurs because of their drug addiction.
The state’s attorney’s office felt Fleckenstein was a candidate for this program. If he does not complete the program, he will go to prison for three years.
As part of the program, he has to pay restitution for the vehicle damage, Grundy County State Attorney Jason Helland said.
These individuals – as is the case with the other teens who had been in the home – could not be charged with criminal trespass because they were invited into the Donley home by the catsitter, who was given permission to be there, Quinlan explained.
The prosecutors could not go forward with criminal damage to property charges either.
“There is nobody to tie one specific act to,” he said. “If you don’t know who did what, how can you charge anybody?”
The case has already been reviewed by four prosecutors who all agreed that further charges were not possible, Quinlan said. It has, however, been passed to an appellate prosecutor for further review.
Donley said she is disappointed nothing more can be done and feels like the law is protecting the criminals more than it is her. She and her husband are looking into civil action.
According to the Parental Responsibility Law, the parent or legal guardian of an unemancipated minor who resides with the parent or guardian is liable for actual damages for the willful or malicious acts of the minor, which cause injury to a person or property. It also states they can be responsible for legal fees.
“I certainly would like to see them punished for the crimes committed, but I also would like to see them pay for them financially,” Donley said.
“I won’t be trusting anyone to do anything like this for me again,” she said.