WADENA -- Ethelyn Pearson may be 81, but the plucky Wadena woman single-handedly fended off an intruder who tried to crawl through her bedroom window during the late night hours of Sept. 6.
Pearson reinjured her left wrist, broken weeks earlier, in the scuffle, but the late night invasion still didn't frighten her much.
A little, but not much.
"He wasn't prepared for an old lady in a white nightgown to scare the daylights out of him," said Pearson Friday with a laugh.
The incident took place just before midnight Sept. 6. Pearson was sleeping in her bedroom and had taken out her hearing aids. Suddenly, she awoke and sat straight up in her bed.
"I was sound asleep, I think God woke me up," she explained. "I have hearing aids and when I take those out, the world just falls away."
Pearson didn't hear anything, but saw a man attempting to crawl into her bedroom window, located about two feet away from her bed. All the windows in the ground level apartment were locked except that one, which was closed. The window blinds were moving and Pearson saw him behind the blinds place his knee on the window sill. He had destroyed the screen and was trying to get in.
Pearson starting hitting at the man through the window blinds, yelling at him to leave.
"I said, 'This is my house, get out, get out, get out,'" she said. "He said, 'I live here,' and I said, 'The hell you live here. Get out.'"
Pearson pushed the intruder back out through the window and he took off running, but not before getting a piece of her mind. She was incensed that someone would attempt to break into her apartment.
"For good measure I yelled, 'And don't you come back,'" she said.
Pearson immediately called 911. Within minutes Wadena Police Officers Pete Resch and Mike Peters showed up, responding to the call.
"She was very calm, explaining everything to my dispatcher," said Resch. "She was upset, but not frantic."
With help from the State Patrol, Wadena County Sheriff's Department and Wadena Police, law enforcement officials stepped up patrols in Pearson's neighborhood that night.
Still, Pearson couldn't go back to sleep.
"My adrenaline was going pretty good so I came out here and drank a couple of pots of coffee before morning," said Pearson as she sat in her rocker in the living room.
In the chaos, the intruder dropped his baseball cap in Pearson's bedroom. Resch said that on Sept. 9 they learned the intruder had attempted to break into another tenant's apartment in the building earlier on Sept. 6 by ripping off the screen. That day they arrested a 25-year-old Wadena man who lived in the building on charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing.
Resch said if the suspect would have actually gotten into her apartment then he could have been charged with felony burglary. Instead, only his shoulder and leg -- and his baseball cap -- made it past Pearson before she booted him back out the window.
Resch said it appears the man had been intoxicated and thought he was trying to get into his own apartment. Charges are under consideration against the man by the Wadena County Attorney's Office, said Resch. He has since been released from jail with the consent of all parties involved, including Pearson, said Resch.
"It wasn't a full-fledged burglary, it was a drunk trying to get into her home," said Resch. "But it was a very dangerous situation. It was very nerve-wracking. I don't know if I could have handled it that well, having someone break into your window only two feet from your bed. It could have been a lot worse."
"It was a bad mistake on his part but in law enforcement you see it a lot. This guy thought he'd locked himself out."
Despite the ordeal, Pearson hasn't let it faze her. She continues to volunteer as an advocate for the county crisis team and writes a column each week for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. She published her first book, "It Really Happened Here! Amazing Tales of Minnesota and the Dakotas" last year at age 80 and recently finished her second book. She's currently working on her third book. She's been a freelance writer since she was 10 and sold her first story for $1. Her husband Milton died three years ago.
"I'm very busy," she explained. "The days are not long enough, and that's the way I like it."
"She's an outstanding gal," said Resch of Pearson. "She's compassionate but very straightforward and stern. She tells it like it is. She's a special lady."
Pearson locks her apartment door and windows each night now, and she's purchased a can of florescent orange spray paint, which sits next to her bed. She said she plans to use the spray paint to mark and slightly maim the next would-be burglar who attempts to break into her Wadena apartment.
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