AUGUSTA — Britany Whitaker shivered Thursday in a stiff wind that blew through the impound lot at Ready Road Service on Riverside Drive.

Whitaker, chattering teeth and all, was handed $500 in cash that the yard earned by selling the car once owned by those who allegedly burglarized her home while she was there. During the burlgary, the 16-year-old scurried into her mother’s closet, where she hid in fear for her life while the burglars rummaged through dresser drawers just on the other side of the door.

She called police, who caught the burglars after they fled the home.

“I feel sad for them,” said Whitaker’s mom, Jaimie Thomas.

“Especially since a 16-year-old girl put them in jail,” she added, beaming.

Whitaker was home sick from school and alone on Feb. 7 when she heard someone break in to her Lombard Dam Road home in Vassalboro. She hid in the closet in her mother’s bedroom.

Thomas, who had been on the phone with her daughter when the break-in began, called police and gave them a description of the vehicle and the license plate Whitaker got before diving into the closet. The burglar, who eventually made his way to Thomas’ room, ran when he opened the door and saw Whitaker.

Police racing to Whitaker’s home came across the dilapidated Volkswagen Jetta on Stanley Road and pulled it over.

Andrew Prior, 23, and Gypsy Carron, 22, were each charged with burglary and criminal mischief. Both await court hearings on the burglary. Prior, who was on probation for an unrelated burglary at the time of the Feb. 7 burglary, was released to the Maine Corrections Center on March 9, according to Kennebec County jail records. Carron was freed on bail on Feb. 8.

Thomas was at work when her daughter called her to tell her someone was knocking on the door.

“They began looking in the window, and I told her to get the license plate number,” said Thomas. “In a matter of seconds she saw them running up the driveway and heard the door window smash out back.”

The battery in Whitaker’s cell phone died, leaving her unable to call anyone. Her mother feared the absolute worst.

“That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever been through,” Thomas said.

Whitaker, meanwhile, continued to crouch in the closet, unsure of what the burglars had in mind.

“I got scared when I heard the glass smash,” she said. “I heard them walking through the kitchen and then I heard them walking on the carpet. The sound got closer; then I could see his shadow under the closet door.”

Whitaker listened as the burglar rifled through drawers in her mother’s bedroom and her heart pounded when the closet door opened slowly.

“When he saw me, he ran,” Whitaker said. “Then I locked myself in the bathroom, which is what I probably should have done in the first place.”

The next person Whitaker saw was Maine State Police Trooper Shawn Porter.

Carron’s Jetta was impounded and hauled away by Ready Road Service. Owner Rob Drummond first heard Whitaker’s harrowing tale that day and wanted to do something to help. He hit upon the idea of selling Carron’s car when she was unable to pay to free it from the impound yard.

“I have four children of my own,” Drummond said. “I felt horrible about the situation she was in. I wanted to make it right, or at least try to.”

Drummond called Paul Pinette, owner of Paul’s Pick-A-Part in Chelsea, to see how much he would pay for the aging Jetta. When Pinette heard the story behind the car, he offered $500, which Drummond said is about double what the car would typically fetch.

“It’s just what happened to her,” Pinette said of his decision to over-bid on the car.

Detective Sgt. Frank Hatch and Detective David Bucknam of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit, working in concert with Thomas, arranged for Thursday’s money exchange.

Whitaker arrived at the yard believing police needed her to identify the car. When she got there, Drummond presented her with the $500.

“We’re awful sorry for what you went through,” Drummond told Whitaker. “We all wanted to do something to help.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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