Residents who live in Matt Jensen’s neighborhood say they are living with fear and unease.
“It’s absolutely awful. I never thought I’d have to experience this,” said Michael Garlitz, Jensen’s next-door neighbor.
Jensen, 32, is accused of killing three Northfield pets while breaking into two houses last May and was arrested again June 3 on two counts of burglary allegedly committed over the weekend in the 600 block of Washington Street.
According to the latest Rice County criminal complaint, Jensen broke into the upstairs bedroom of the house where he lives sometime May 31 and stole $20 from the victim’s wallet. The next day, Northfield police officers were called to the residence by the victim, who said he had caught Jensen trying to climb a ladder and break into his window.
The police issued a complaint warrant and Jensen was arrested June 2. He posted bail and was released from the Rice County Jail on June 3.
Garlitz said that he has three children and doesn’t feel safe letting them play outside by themselves. His family has lived in Northfield for 16 years, he said, but now he wishes they could move away. To feel safer, the family has installed motion detectors and a stronger security system, and they always lock every door and window.
“The neighbors are scared, and we’re scared,” he said.
Erin Carson’s dog Winter was one of the three killed in last year’s burglaries, and she said she just received her dog’s remains.
“The whole neighborhood is scared [and] there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “We feel very violated. It’s a feeling of helplessness, [and] it’s just never ending.”
Like the Garlitz family, the Carsons have installed extra locks and won’t let their children play alone outside.
“We’re not a paranoid people,” she said. “Well, not until now.”
Amanda Murphy is another resident who lost two dogs in last year’s burglaries. Murphy said even though her family lives three blocks away from Jensen, it’s still unsettling to know that he is out on bail.
“I will never feel safe in my home again,” she said. “It’s really hard to know that [Jensen] keeps on getting all the breaks, and we don’t seem to get any.”
She added that she would be happy to see Jensen turn his life around, but she doesn’t think he wants to.
“It just seems like we keep hearing stories that he’s been arrested again,” she said. “It frightens me that he’s loose [and] scares me to think what he could do next.”
But not everyone in the neighborhood is frightened. Mark Detlie, who lives a few houses away from Jensen, said he doesn’t want to judge Jensen before the trial.
“He has rights,” Detlie said. “I don’t feel unsafe because he’s a couple doors down from me. I’m hoping he gets the help he needs.”
Jensen’s landlord, who is also his girlfriend, said she is not considering evicting Jensen at this time. As for Jensen, he wants his day in court.
“The people of this town view me as completely guilty,” he said, adding that he was judged long before his court date. “It’s going to be really hard for me to get a fair trial in this county because everybody knows who I am and it’s been printed all over the newspaper.”
Jensen has been out on bail since September for charges dating back to last May regarding his alleged involvement in three break-ins and the death of three dogs. For that, he is facing eight felony charges: first-degree burglary, four counts of second-degree burglary and three counts of mistreatment of animals for his alleged involvement in three break-ins in the neighborhoods of College, Washington and East Sixth streets in early May. He was also charged with fifth-degree drug possession, a felony, and a gross misdemeanor count of mistreatment of animals.
He said the town’s negative opinion of him has kept him confined to his home, and he added that he recently attempted to kill himself because of the stress of the situation. He will also begin a six-month treatment for his drug problem next week, he said.
“I’m not a danger to anybody,” Jensen said. “Anyone who knows me knows that I love animals. I haven’t gotten in trouble for a year.”
The trial regarding last year’s burglaries is set for August.
Grace Webb covers the cities of Northfield and Lonsdale, and writes about public safety. You can reach her at 645-1117.