Man Finds Wrong House, Wrong Bed, Nice Family

Bob Breiner near the bed where he found a drunken stranger asleep after he turned on his nightstand lamp.
Bob Breiner near the bed where he found a drunken stranger asleep after he turned on his nightstand lamp. (Source is Breiner family.)
By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 9, 2008

There's drunken confusion, and then there's the place that a 50-year-old Montgomery County man found himself -- in the wrong bed in the wrong house. There's forgiveness, and then there's the kindness shown by the family who found him.

The story begins the night of Sept. 27, when Bob and Joanne Breiner of Gaithersburg returned home with their son after eating at a Chinese buffet.

Bob Breiner walked upstairs to the master bedroom and flipped on a lamp. Less than two feet away: a man he'd never seen, wrapped in blankets, sound asleep. On the floor were shoes, socks and pants. Earlier, the man had apparently helped himself to a crab cake from the refrigerator.

The Breiners fled their house and called police. Officers made their way to the bedroom.

"What," the intruder asked police, "are you doing in my house?" the Breiners recalled yesterday.

"The man had been drinking," said Montgomery police spokeswoman Lucille Baur, "and returned to what he thought was his home and climbed into bed and went to sleep."

He had missed by eight miles, apparently getting off at the wrong bus stop on his way home to Damascus. Gingerly, he made his way down the Breiners' stairs, holding the banister in one hand and his shoes and socks in the other.

"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," the Breiners recalled him saying. "By the way, you have a very comfortable bed."

One of the officers asked him whether -- upon entering the house and seeing a white Persian cat -- he realized he was at the wrong place.

"I thought maybe my wife had gone out and gotten another cat," he told the officer, the Breiners said.

After the Breiners found out that their intruder had no police record and that he had lost his job three weeks earlier, they told officers they didn't want to press charges.

Joanne Breiner, who teaches English as a second language at Roberto Clemente Middle School, headed into her kitchen. Into a plastic grocery bag she packed a container of homemade chicken soup, homemade cookies and some spare ribs, giving the food to officers and telling them to pass it on to the man.

"I think her mom would have been disappointed if we didn't feed the intruder," said Bob Breiner, noting the manners of his Sicilian-born wife and mother-in-law.

Montgomery police declined to release the intruder's name because he wasn't charged. The man's wife retrieved him, leaving the Breiners to piece together some of the details.

They said their 16-year-old son was the last one out of the house, and he apparently left the front door unlocked. When the family got home, before Bob Breiner headed upstairs, Joanne Breiner noticed crumbs on the kitchen counter and saw that a crab cake was missing. She questioned her husband and son, who denied responsibility in a way that she said she believed. That left her confused, as she wiped down the counter.

Things could have ended up differently, had the intruder stumbled in a few hours later. Bob Breiner, a podiatrist, practices krav maga, a form of martial arts taught by the Israeli army. "We use a lot of elbows to the head, knees to the stomach and kicks to the groin," he said.

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