New Milford home invasion victims speak out

NEW MILFORD — The four Finkle siblings, all in their 60s, have lived in a ranch house surrounded by placid woods for nearly two decades — the last home on Sandy Acres Lane, where the only sound likely to break the silence is a barking dog.

But on a summer night in June, their two TVs tuned to the nightly news, the balmy evening’s calm broke with the sound of shattered glass.

“After all of it, blood was all over the kitchen like a pig was slaughtered,” JoAnne Finkle said last week.

“All of it” began when JoAnne heard sounds coming from the woods. She put down the birthday package she was preparing for a friend in Missouri and walked out on the back porch to investigate.

At first, she could not see anything, she said. But then her neighbor, Michael Saunders, emerged from the woods swinging a 2-by-4 and yelling incoherently about being pursued by two men.

Bee Finkle, watching from the window, said he “was out there like a karate guy with that piece of wood, fighting people who weren’t there.”

JoAnne yelled to Saunders he was on private property and told him to go home. Saunders turned in her direction, yelling that he was being pursued, and started toward the house.

Mike Finkle, rising from the couch, told JoAnne to get inside and lock the doors. When he saw Saunders heading around the house for the front door, he ran and locked it just in time.

Saunders, still screaming about being chased, headed to the back once again. Mike grabbed the bats that Bee insists be kept by the front door for protection and returned to the back door while Joanne was dialing 911.

Saunders, meanwhile, had climbed the stairs to the back deck and started throwing lawn furniture into the yard. He turned to the door and put his hand through the glass.

Still yelling about his invisible pursuers, he demanded to be let in. He even promised to protect the Finkles.

As Saunders ran his bloodied hand up and down the door frame, trying to let himself in, Mike and Bee propped the bats against the inside of the door.

But Saunders, more than 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, managed to unlock the door and force it open, trapping 93-pound Bee against the wall.

“I was face to face with that loon,” Bee said. “He had hate in his eyes like the eyes of the devil.”

Saunders grabbed Mike and threw him to ground, where they fought for possession of one bat. Meanwhile, JoAnne was making her third call to 911.

“I told them, ‘If you don’t get somebody here, you’ll be taking out four bodies in four body bags,’” she said.

Saunders was using the bat to lift Mike and slam him against the floor. Bee decided the only way to save her brother was to lure Saunders away by playing to his delusion. She yelled that she would help fight his pursuers and ran outside, hoping he would follow.

At that moment, police arrived. Officer Keith April, seeing Bee “holding a bat with blood all over her arms and shirt,” aimed his stun gun at her and ordered her to drop the bat.

She complied, but pointed at Saunders and shouted, “It was him breaking in.” April ordered him to the ground.

“He said that two white males were chasing him and trying to kill him,” April later wrote in his report. “(He) began to ramble and say that they chased him from his house so he jumped off of his roof and ran to the (Finkles’) residence to seek some help.

“He was trying to force his way in because he was scared of the two males,” April wrote.

Police found no sign of the two males and no sign of forced entry at the house next door, which Saunders shares with his mother, Donna.

“It appears he was hallucinating,” April wrote.

Saunders told police he hadn’t taken any drugs, but admitted he had drunk a few “twisted teas” and seven “nippers” — miniature bottles of liquor.

Mike and Bee were taken to New Milford Hospital. Her injuries proved to be minor, but the cuts on Mike’s hands had to be stitched closed. JoAnne was uninjured, and the fourth Finkle, Buddy, had slept through the chaos.

Saunders, 33, was charged with four felonies: home invasion, first-degree burglary, assaulting an elderly person and attempting to assault an elderly person.

His bail was set at $500,000, and the Finkles thought their ordeal was over. They fixed the door and cleaned up the blood, and Bee went to the police department to retrieve her bat, now bent at an odd angle.

But in a hearing early last month, Saunders’ bond was lowered to $150,000 and he returned to his mother’s home to await his Aug. 8 court appearance in Bantam.

The Finkles were appalled.

“We’re living in fear,” Bee said. “I’d say he’s 300 feet away most every day. Way too close for comfort.”

Saunders, who has not yet hired a lawyer, could not be reached for comment. His mother, reached by phone, declined to comment, adding an attorney would call The News-Times. None had by deadline.

“We pray he gets put away,” Bee said. “Take him where he can get the help he needs, not next door.”

JoAnne, who said she jumps at the smallest noises, agreed.

“He’s out there, next door, and he could be drinking again,” she said. “We don’t know what he’s capable of.

“In Connecticut, it feels like the suspect has more rights than the victim.”; 203-731-3411; @bglytton