December 20, 2012

Christmas spirit triumphs over Oakland grinches

BY MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- The generosity of people near and far has helped a frightened woman sleep a little better this Christmas season.

Charlotte Lovejoy, 87, has had many sleepless nights since Dec. 6, when she and her husband, Del Lovejoy, 88, discovered that $1,000 worth of Christmas presents they bought for their family were stolen from their home while they slept.

Ever since that night, Lovejoy said, she hasn't been to sleep for more than an hour or two, because she is so frightened of further home invasions.

The Lovejoys' home was also burglarized in September, according to police.

The story of the crime, called particularly distasteful by police, took an uplifting turn when donations began arriving at the Oakland Police Department.

This week, officers presented about $4,000 to the Lovejoys.

Charlotte Lovejoy said the money would be enough to replace the stolen gifts and to put in a security system on their home.

The security system "will put my mind at ease, I think," she said.

"I feel very blessed that people were so wonderful and donated," Charlotte Lovejoy said. "I'm getting my presents back and gifts for the kids."

Capt. Rick Stubbert of the Oakland Police Department said donors were outraged at the crime and sympathetic for the Lovejoys, who live on a fixed income and were unable to replace the stolen items on their own.

Police coordinated donations with the fire department, the town office and Messalonskee High School, where Del Lovejoy, now disabled, used to work.

Stubbert said donations came from a wide variety of sources, including individuals and companies; area residents and people from as far away as Los Angeles; those who knew the Lovejoys and complete strangers.

Charlotte Lovejoy said that she also was visited by friends, acquaintances and strangers who wanted to help or express their support.

Lovejoy, who describes herself as a strong person, said that her feisty demeanor could have gotten her hurt during the home invasions.

"Had I woken up, with my disposition, I would have been out there and I would have been hurt, probably," she said.

Tips from community members led to the apprehension of Brandon Rimes, 26 and Jason Horne, 25, who live across the street from the Lovejoys.

Horne remains in jail, while Rimes is out on bail. Both are awaiting an arraignment in February, according to Stubbert.

Stubbert said that the two arrests and the replacement of the stolen items demonstrates the effectiveness of a widespread community response to a crime.

"If there's any lesson to be learned here, it's that we should come together as a community at all times of the year," Stubbert said.

For Charlotte Lovejoy, the donation means that she may once more be able to sleep through the night.

"It doesn't matter, one rotten apple, when there's a hundred million good people out there," she said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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