A Columbia couple whose home was trashed by partying teenagers while they were on vacation say they are still trying to repair the thousands of dollars in damage but they will never restore their sense of safety.
Steve Johnston and Kathy Keithley-Johnston's problems began last December, when they left their home in the care of a friend while they went on vacation. The friend's 15-year-old grandson stole the key and hosted a party that attracted 60 to 70 people – mostly Rock Bridge High School students.
Teens returned to the home several times during the week, causing about $70,000 in damages and destroying or stealing more than $300,000 in valuables and personal items, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
The tile, carpet, walls and furniture were damaged, with excrement and drugs left around the house. Thieves took art, baseball cards, designer handbags, 10 guns and personal mementos, Keithley-Johnson said.
Four teenagers, including the boy who took the key, were convicted in juvenile court of burglary and ordered to pay almost $10,000 in restitution.
The house's contents were insured up to $161,000 and repairs are scheduled to begin soon. But it will never feel like home again, Keithley-Johnston said.
“Things are just things, but this is where my memories are,” she said. “I just feel like” the sense of safety “has been a facade. I don't believe it anymore. We are all in jeopardy.”
Keithley-Johnston said she found photos on Facebook and Twitter of teens with her property and wearing the couple's clothes but only a few insignificant items were returned.
Columbia police Sgt. Joe Bernhard said Friday he could not speak about the ongoing investigation. The police department also denied the Tribune's request for reports relating to the incident, citing its ongoing investigation.