CoMo couple feels abandoned by police, City Hall, and neighbors
COLUMBIA, 5/4/13 (Beat Byte) --
A Columbia couple whose house was robbed and vandalized last December is using Facebook to do what they say police and public officials have not: Bring justice to the alleged teenage perpetrators and restore safety and sanity to their damaged home.
"I called [Columbia police chief Ken Burton
] five times asking to meet with him and he never called me back," Kathy Keithley-Johnston
writes on her Facebook page, Victims Against Juvenile Crimes.
"My husband met with Mayor [Bob McDavid
] -- a joke. I called my County Commissioner [Karen Miller
] -- no return call."
Fans of the page have additionally indicted parents, teachers, school athletic programs, and the juvenile justice system, casting a wide and troubling net across the entire community
A family friend's 15-year-old grandson allegedly stole the house key and held a party at the home Keithley-Johnston shares with husband Stephen Johnston
while the two were vacationing. The party turned into week-long vandalism fest ala Project X
, a fictional 2012 movie about an out-of-control teen romp with a reality-show feel.
The couple came back to smashed windows, pockmarked walls, wrecked furniture, leftover drugs, smeared feces, and a defaced photo of Keithley-Johnston's sister (above left
"BB Guns were shot in the house multiple times," Keithley-Johnston quotes from a police report. "Couch - Destroyed! They took butcher knives to it and burned holes in it."
A photo album documents the room-by-room destruction.
"Dad always told us to make a stand when we knew someone
had been harmed and wronged."
The vandals reportedly stole over $300,000 worth of valuables, including guns, jewelry, handbags, electronics, and artwork. Keithley-Johnston has posted Twitter feeds and photos she says show teen perpetrators mugging for cameras with the pilfered property.
Although juvenile courts convicted four teenagers of the burglary, "Not one parent has called us to tell us how sorry they truly are!" Keithley-Johnston says. Feelings of abandonment prompted the social media strategy. "The neighbors watched as it went on for days and never called the police."
Supporters and detractors have commented on the Facebook page.
"What is the Columbia Police Department's response for not arresting these little sh*ts?" asks Robyn Walther McCullem.
Neighbors posting on the Facebook page
have been adamant, saying they aren't to blame.
"The Columbia PD is doing nothing at this time to assist our family," Keithley-Johnston answers.
Though police officials have declined to comment, citing the investigation, neighbors posting on the Facebook page have been adamant: they aren't to blame
, and find Keithley-Johnston's allegations both unfounded and unfair. She has since deleted several such posts.
One of the alleged suspects has also fired back.
"Your (sic) making me mad with these false accusations," responded Jordan Denette Elliott
, a 17-year old Rockbridge High School student. "YOUR (sic) CRAZY!!!!!"
Reaction among other readers ranges from empathy for the Johnstons to sympathy for the "wrongly-accused."
"I feel truly sorry for all of you that must remain here thinking you are safe," Keithley-Johnston wrote. "And to think, I have served on every committee and dedicated my life to this community."