SIDNEY — The odds of someone breaking into Audrey Hewett’s home a second time are, according to her son, Eric Hewett, about “one in a million.”

Still, Eric Hewett hasn’t left anything to chance after a harrowing ordeal last winter, in which a Rhode Island man allegedly forced his way into his elderly mother’s house and, when her son came to the rescue, swung a hammer at his head.

Even before last winter, the Hewetts had planned for the event of a home invasion. Audrey Hewett was to lock herself in her bedroom and call her son, who lives nearby on Lyons Road, not far from Interstate 95.

She did just that on the evening of March 12, when the Rhode Island man, Dreaquan Foster, is accused of knocking on her door and asking to use her phone, then breaking through her bay window when she refused.

After Eric Hewett received the call from his mother, he said, he quickly grabbed his handgun, drove to her house and got into a scuffle with Foster, who police say was trying to break through Audrey’s bedroom door.

Eric Hewett shot the stranger in the chest and restrained him until police could arrive, about 15 minutes after his wife, Patty Hewett, called 911. He did so despite the broken skull, concussions and other injuries he suffered during the hammer attack.

Foster remains at Kennebec County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. Over the summer, he pleaded not guilty to the eight charges on which he’s been indicted, including elevated aggravated assault. His next court date is in January.

Now, with Eric Hewett’s injuries mostly in the rearview mirror, he has expanded his family’s home security even further. He also has been advocating that others think about protecting their homes, no matter how unlikely an invasion seems.

“People should have some sort of a plan, some sort of preparedness,” he said, during an interview at his mother’s home. “We’ve upped our game a little bit, because even though we had a plan, if things hadn’t gone about right, the plan would have failed.”

He has bought additional firearms and done target practice with his family members. But Hewett, who grew up hunting and using guns, acknowledged they may not be everyone’s first choice and pointed to other important steps people can take.

Besides expanding his own family’s arsenal, he’s added motion sensors to his and his mother’s homes, which can trigger loud alarms and emergency phone calls.

More important, he’s reinforced several of his family’s doors with burly hinges and bolts, and replaced the flimsy door that once led to his mother’s bedroom with a solid slab of wood.

If that heavy door had been in place March 12, it would have given Audrey Hewett more time in the safety of her bedroom while waiting for police or other help to arrive.

“I’ve done some research, and a safe room is one of the biggest things you can do. This new door is designed not to fail,” he said. The old door “would have lasted a minute, and (Foster) wasn’t a big guy. He was almost through it. Now we’ve put a door on that would take a big guy an hour to get through it. … To me, what matters more than can you shoot somebody or spray somebody, is do you have time to react? If you don’t have the time to react, you’re at a big disadvantage. This buys time.”

Defendant Dreaquan Foster on Thursday consults with his attorney, Thomas Tilton, during his arraignment at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta on charges related to a Sidney home invasion last spring. Staff photo by David Leaming

Foster, the alleged intruder, was taken to the Kennebec County jail in late March after recovering from the gunshot wound to his chest.

Police say he stole a car in Rhode Island before driving to Maine and ditching it on Interstate 95 in Sidney when it ran out of gas.

The 22-year-old, who has said little in court, has been indicted on charges of elevated aggravated assault for allegedly hitting Eric Hewett on the head with a hammer; aggravated criminal mischief; burglary; theft by unauthorized use of property, for taking a vehicle without consent; and three counts of criminal mischief.

The Hewetts have not followed every step of his criminal proceedings closely.

“I’m interested in his sentencing,” Eric Hewett said. “Otherwise, as long as he’s away from the public, I don’t worry about it too much.”

For three months after the attack, Eric Hewett, who is 48, wasn’t able to return to his job as a nurse in the surgical unit at Inland Hospital.

Audrey Hewitt looks over at her son Eric Hewitt as they explain, during an interview in Audrey Hewitt’s Sidney home, how he saved her during a home invasion. Eric Hewett suffered a concussion and a skull fracture, among other injuries. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Besides a fracture near the top of his skull, which was in the shape of the letter C, he also suffered multiple concussions, a broken nose, a broken cheekbone, two broken eye orbits and, most scary in the days afterwards, a dangerous level of bleeding around his brain.

“I had headaches pretty strong, off and on, for about a month or so,” he recalled. “The dizziness was a problem. My left eye took a while to improve. My memory, my thoughts, were really unorganized for the three months, and even going back to work was a struggle. Multitasking was a problem. I went back part time for a couple weeks.”

Given his inability to work for those months, Hewett expressed enormous appreciation to several groups of people.

His neighbors, friends and family members helped repair his mother’s house, plow snow and do other chores at the various properties he oversees. His coworkers at the hospital gave him a hero’s welcome and ample assistance when he returned to work. The state victims’ compensation fund helped make up for his loss of income.

“They call me a hero,” he said. “Well, I was just taking care of some business on a bad day. Those folks, they didn’t have to do any of that, but they did.”

Like his loved ones, Eric Hewett also is thankful for the relative speed of his recovery. About two months after the invasion, he drove himself to an appointment with a neurosurgeon in Portland, who expressed surprise at how much he was able to do.

“He said, ‘We generally gauge recovery from your injury over years, not weeks,'” Hewett recalled. “‘Here we are at eight weeks; you’re up and around wanting to go back to work.’ He was quite pleased.”

Their relief is all the greater because Patty Hewett, Eric’s wife, had just learned she was pregnant the week before the home invasion, after several years in which the couple had tried unsuccessfully to have a child.

Did that make her husband’s injuries on that winter night extra nerve-wracking?

“Yeah!” said Patty, who was also at her mother-in-law’s house during the interview. She was holding their 4-month-old son, Caleb, who listened with bewilderment and made quiet babbling sounds.

“I’m just glad I’m around to spend my life with him,” her husband said. “I feel I’m very lucky to have recovered the way that I have.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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