Burglar: Broke into structures because cold, hungry

Photo: Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe of Summit, who is accused of breaking into — or attempting to break into — several structures in the Henderson area allegedly looking for food and a warm place to stay made a second appearance in Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday.

The 37-year-old Wolfe told the court he was willing to plead guilty to breaking into the structures, but was not agreeable to making the same plea to theft-of-property charges.

Wolfe said he had only entered the structures because he was cold and hungry. He said he had brain damage due to being hit by a freight train at some unspecified time, and did not always “think straight.” He seemed to indicate he was not guilty of theft of property, since he had not actually taken items from the structures.

But, investigative reports show he had eaten food, slept in a bed in one house and apparently consumed alcohol while inside at least one home. He had also broken out glass in doors and windows to gain entrance.

Circuit Judge John Putman did not accept Wolfe’s offer and ordered him to reappear Jan. 9.

Wolfe was first located after deputies from the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call Nov. 17, 2019 reporting a male apparently living in a vehicle parked between the Lake Norfork Inn and Colonial Liquor Store.

The deputies located the SUV, but found no one inside. The driver’s side door was open, and keys were in the ignition, according to the deputies.

While at the scene, one of the deputies looked across U.S. Highway 62/412 to a residence appearing to be either vacant or an unoccupied vacation home. A window appeared to be open, but as the deputies approached, they discovered it was actually broken.

The deputies reported hearing someone talking inside the house. They announced their presence and then heard someone running. One of the deputies went to the back of the house and made contact with a male later identified as Wolfe.

Wolfe said he had gone into the house because he was hungry. A deputy walked through the residence and located open alcohol bottles and miscellaneous food items scattered about.

When the out-of-town owner was contacted, he said he did not know Wolfe and Wolfe did not have permission to be in his house.

The deputies reported no household items of value seemed to be missing, and the only thing damaged was the broken window. A friend of the owner who lives in Mountain Home came to the house and verified the deputies’ observation.

Wolfe was booked into the county jail on a felony count of residential burglary and misdemeanor counts of theft of property under $500 and second-degree criminal mischief.

On Nov. 18, deputies were again called to the area by a business owner who reported an attempted break-in at his establishment. The man said the drive-in window glass had been broken out and damage had been done to a back door. The would-be burglar did not get into the building. The business owner said a mobile home adjacent to the business had been entered but nothing appeared to be missing.

On Nov. 19, deputies were called to another Henderson-area residence by the caretaker for the property. In checking the house, the caretaker reported seeing glass had been broken out of a storm door and the main door.

He reported seeing blood on the back deck and glass shards on the floor just inside the house. The caretaker said he decided to wait on deputies before entering the home.

When deputies arrived, they made entry and reported they could immediately smell the strong odor of smoke. During the investigation, it was determined Wolfe had entered this structure, as well, and had tried to build a fire in the house, not knowing the flue was capped off, causing the home to fill with smoke.

The deputies saw a number of food items scattered about in the kitchen. In the family room, a large amount of blood was observed on the floor. It appeared a partially successful attempt had been made to clean up the blood.

A number of cabinet doors in the residence were open, and a bed appeared to have been slept in.

Deputies dusted a number of items in the house, and fingerprints were obtained, including a print on a candy bar wrapper that matched to Wolfe.

At the time, Wolfe was already in the Baxter County Detention Center following his arrest stemming from the initial burglary incident.

He has been in the county jail since Nov. 17 with bond set at $35,000.

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