When a group of about five or six individuals barged into a 44-year-old Yelm woman’s bedroom in the early morning hours of Friday, June 5 — waking up her and her fiance — the only thing she could think about was prayer.
“I was praying that God would bring a way that we could get out of the door in my bedroom,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used out of concern for her safety and privacy. “There were so many of them. We felt helpless.”
Friday, June 5, will go down as a very traumatic day for the small Yelm family, which lives in the block 14200 block of State Route 507.
After putting the woman and her 12-year-old daughter face down on the ground, the group of invaders then tied up her fiance. They told the family of three to not look at them, simultaneously shining bright flashlights in their eyes.
“They had a light shining at our face. They told us not to look at (them) … In fact, their first words they said were ‘consequences, consequences,’” she recalled.
“They basically advised them that they owed them money and they had some baseball bats and other things with them,” Lt. Ray Brady with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said. “It looks like they were bound and the adult male was struck in the face.”
The group of six rummaged through the house, searching for anything valuable they could take, according to recounts from Brady and the victim.
The woman said the thieves led her fiance around the house, making him point out the valuable items such as purses and televisions.
“He was giving them everything,” the woman recalled. “Everything they stole and everything they took doesn’t mean anything. We’re just alive and so grateful to be with our family right now.”
While she and her daughter were uninjured, the woman said her fiance sustained a concussion and fractures to his face.
While the criminals were rummaging around a safe in the family’s 2012 black Dodge Challenger, the woman’s fiance was brought back to the woman and her daughter by the thieves.
At that point, an opportunity arose, she said.
As the thieves attempted to open the safe, the family of three was able to open the door and run for the neighbor’s house.
“We could hear them in the property, we could hear them in the house, as we were running,” she recalled.
Once they were away from the home invaders, the family called 911.
Thurston County Sheriff’s Office deputies and investigators received the call at about 4:30 a.m., Brady said. By the time law enforcement got to the house, the group was gone and had stolen the family’s Challenger, a 2009 white Chrysler Town & Country minivan and a number of valuable items.
Shortly after, Thurston County officers had dispatched a description of the two vehicles, Brady said.
Officers with Yelm Police Department identified one of the vehicles at the Shell gas station near 103rd Avenue heading east and began pursuit. Brady said Yelm officers continued the pursuit across the Nisqually River but lost the vehicle in Roy.
Officers with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department were able to stop the vehicle, identified as the Dodge Challenger, in Spanaway. The department arrested one suspect, 27-year-old Felei Tauave, of Tacoma.
Tauave was booked into Thurston County Jail on Friday on first-degree robbery, unlawful imprisonment, and theft of a motor vehicle charges. He could face additional charges for eluding police, Brady said.
According to Thurston County Jail’s roster, Tauave is being held on the following bail amounts: $50,000 for unlawful imprisonment, $25,000 for theft of motor vehicle, and $25,000 for first-degree robbery.
Brady said they believe up to seven accomplices and suspects related to the home invasion could still be at large. As of Tuesday morning, the family’s Town & Country minivan, with license plate BME9223, is still missing.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is still searching for a white female, two Hispanic males and one black male associated with the home invasion. No age ranges were reported, Brady said, as it’s still an active case and law enforcement is working to identify the remaining suspects.
“Home-invasion style robberies are extremely rare in the county and this community. Typically, they’re not a random crime. I think sometimes reminding people about that makes people feel more at ease,” Brady said, adding that criminals more frequently scout out unoccupied houses.
The woman who spoke to the Nisqually Valley News said these individuals were absolute strangers and added that neither her friends or her family knew any of the people who matched the identification. From what she can recall, none of them wore masks during the invasion.
Over the last couple days, she said her family has been focusing on spending time together. Worldly possessions can be replaced, she said, and they thank God they still have their lives. The family is also working with law enforcement in hopes of additional arrests being made.
One of the strangest aspects of the robbery, the woman said, was the female robber who looked over her and her daughter while the men in the group were loading items into the vehicle.
Her demeanor was tough and mean, but not like the men’s, she recalled. The female robber gave instructions to the men and backed up the woman and her daughter when the men threatened their lives.
“She sat with our daughter the entire time, like really close. My daughter said she was an angel. It was weird. It was strange. Whoever she was, I feel a bit of gratefulness that she sat with us. Even despite the foul banter. It was just strange,” she said.