The 80-year-old Maryland woman was terrified, police said, and for good reason.
A 6-foot, 220-pound, heavily tattooed man forced his way into her Potomac home after falsely claiming he was there to check on her roof, police contend, then pulled a knife and said he wanted cash and jewelry.
As frightened as she was, the woman took a set of actions that seemed to calm the intruder and led to an unexpected sequence of events that helped her escape injury, according to the police account: the man sitting down to talk with her for an hour at the house, the two driving in her car to pass a farm the intruder recalled nostalgically, a stop for dinner at a restaurant and the man eventually freeing her uninjured.
“She did what she believed would keep her safe,” Montgomery County police spokeswoman Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti said Monday.
A suspect, Robert Dove, 39, was ordered held without bond Monday. An attorney who represented him during the brief hearing, John Lavigne, did not discuss the allegations.
Dove has been charged with home invasion, armed robbery, assault and kidnapping in the Oct. 14 event. At one point during his alleged encounter with the woman, Dove poured himself a drink of vodka and “went on to explain the many difficulties that he was going through in his life,” detectives wrote in court papers.
The case began when Dove — who has previous convictions for burglary and misdemeanor assault, and had been staying at a halfway house in Rockville — left Oct. 13, didn’t return, and was declared an escapee. He was familiar with the Potomac neighborhood where the woman lived, police said, and about 4 p.m. on Oct. 14, he knocked on the woman’s front door.
“The subject stated he was there to inspect her roof,” detectives wrote in court papers. “Being a Sunday, [the victim] thought this was odd, so she asked him why he was there.”
According to the accusations in the police account: He said a homeowners’ association had sent him. She said she didn’t want her roof inspected. He shoved her in the shoulder, forced her into her home and pulled out the knife.
She gave him about $400 from her purse. The two walked to a rear bedroom, where the woman gave him a jewelry box.
The police account goes on to allege he pocketed a gold chain and said he wanted the woman to take him to an ATM where she would withdraw money.
In arrest records, detectives described what they say the woman, identified as “Victim One,” did in response:
“Not sure what the subject was going to do next, Victim One asked the subject, ‘Why are you doing this?’ She went on to say, ‘Let me help you, come sit down and talk to me.’ ”
The two went to the living room and spoke for an hour, with Dove telling her he had walked off from the job he’d held while staying at the halfway house, police said. Still frightened, because her home was secluded, “Victim One stated that she had some good country music in her car, and that they could go for a drive,” the affidavit states.
Before leaving, he took the gold chain out of his pocket and left it on a table in the house, police said. The two drove by a farm where Dove said he used to hunt. It was remote also, and the woman later told detectives, they said, that she wanted to get somewhere more populated.
She told him she was hungry and suggested they go to a restaurant in Poolesville. Other diners recognized Dove, police said, and when they did, he said the woman was a friend.
“There were numerous times that Victim One felt that she could escape from Dove, but worried that even if she did, and was able to call the police, that Dove would eventually get out of jail and hurt her or send someone else, that was not in jail, to hurt her. It was for those reasons that she did not alert anyone to the situation,” detectives wrote in an affidavit.
On the way back to her house after dinner, the woman suggested he check into a hotel, agreeing to pay for his room for three days at a Hilton Hotel.
He took up the offer, police said, and allowed her to drive home. The woman drove to a friend’s house in Bethesda. The next day, police said, she called the police.
By then, authorities were investigating Dove’s escape from the halfway house and got a tip about his possible whereabouts. Four plainclothes Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies went to the Hilton. The deputies didn’t know what room he was in but searched the hotel and spotted Dove.
“He took off running down a hallway, and got to a flight of steps” and outside, said Sheriff Darren Popkin in an interview.
Dove was running toward the Twinbrook Metro station when deputies caught him and took him into custody, Popkin said.