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Calm teen saves lives, helps nab burglar

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By Stephen Thomas

    MOUNT WASHINGTON - What did you do on Spring Break?

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    For 13-year-old Kaitlyn Yates, the answer to that question was extraordinary: She saved her younger siblings from a burglar and assisted in his apprehension.

    Because of her successful efforts, Kaitlyn was honored by Bullitt County EMS officials and the County Judge’s office.

    The event occurred on the morning of April 9, the Friday of Spring Break, when Mark Dages, 48, of Mount Washington allegedly broke into Kaitlyn’s home.

    At the time Kaitlyn’s mother, Dana Asher, was at work in Louisville. Her stepfather, Donald Asher, was working out of town. She was in charge of the house, watching siblings Kyarra, 10, and Tyler, 8.

    “(The children) were with someone all week, with family and friends Monday through Thursday,” said Dana. “Friday was their only day alone. When I left (around 7:15 a.m.) they were still in bed.”

    Kaitlyn woke up when she heard sounds downstairs. She remembered it was 9:23 a.m. Kyarra and Tyler happened to be in her room that morning. She walked downstairs to inspect the noise.

    “I thought it was my stepdad,” she said. “He has a weird work schedule.”

    Kaitlyn turned a corner to see an open back door and Dages in the kitchen with his back to her.

    “I saw a big piece of wood on the floor, the back door was forced open and then I saw him, and he was really big,” she recalled.

Call 9-1-1; Remain Calm

    Kaitlyn quickly headed upstairs, using her cell phone to call Dana.

    “She asked if her stepdad was supposed to be home,” said Dana. “Then she said she thinks someone is in the house, and she’s whispering. I told her to call the police.”

    “My parents always told me if anything happens keep your phone and call 9-1-1,” Kaitlyn said.

    They both called 9-1-1. Amber Allen, a five-year veteran with Bullitt County Dispatch, took Kaitlyn’s call at 9:29. Allen admitted the situation was unusual, even for dispatchers.

    “My goal was to keep Kaitlyn quiet and calm and tell her to lock the door to the room she was in,” she said.

    Allen advised Kaitlyn to collect her siblings and hide. They settled behind a futon, where Kaitlyn urged them to remain quiet. The younger siblings obliged.

    Dispatch supervisor Carla Johnson was making a routine check when she learned Allen was on the phone with Kaitlyn.

    “Instantly you get the cold chills, the emotions,” she said.

    The call was unusual due to Kaitlyn’s age. According to Johnson, that was the only thing unusual about it.

    “It’s wonderful when you hear it,” Johnson said. “(Kaitlyn) gave the street name, spelled it out, told what street it was off of, and gave a clothing description of the man.”

    With Kaitlyn’s information dispatcher Teri Hall, seated next to Allen, contacted Mt. Washington Police. Officer Rebecca Troutman responded first to the scene, followed by Officer Kenny Hardin, Jr.

    The officers were dispatched at 9:31. Troutman arrived at the house in three minutes. Meanwhile, Allen remained on the phone with Kaitlyn.

    “When you’re in that situation it seems like an eternity, even as an adult,” Allen said.

    A third dispatcher, Kim Scott, contacted Dana at work to inform her of the situation.

    “I was told my daughter was on another line, and then I hung up,” Dana said. “I couldn’t move for a couple minutes.” She eventually left work and headed home.

    The three children remained under the futon, with Kaitlyn following Allen’s instructions. At one point they heard Dages jiggling the bedroom door handle before returning downstairs.

    “He knocked the back door down, and my door was easier than that,” said Kaitlyn. “I was really stressing out.”

    “We thought he was going back down to get something to open the door,” Kyarra said.

    Though panicked by the situation, Allen urged Kaitlyn to remain calm, which she did.

    “You always know how they feel, you put yourself in their situation,” said Allen. “It’s different with kids because they can’t fend for themselves and it’s a new situation for them. You are the only one that can help them.”

    Allen reminded Kaitlyn that police were coming while monitoring Hall and Troutman in the background.

    “It felt like 10 or 20 minutes, but now I know it was only about five,” Kaitlyn said.

Safe at Home

    Troutman arrived at the house, noticing a red truck. She informed Hall, who relayed to Allen, who asked Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn said they did not have a red truck.

    It was 9:35 when Troutman entered the home, followed shortly by Hardin at 9:36. Within moments Dages was in custody.

    “I stayed on the phone with Kaitlyn to keep her calm until after the arrest and after the house was searched,” said Allen. She told the children to stay where they were until Hardin was at the door.

    Meanwhile, Scott called Dana, who had reached the Brooks Road exit on Interstate 65.

    “Kim called her so she’d know her children were safe and reminded her to drive safely,” Johnson said.

    The children met the police officers. Troutman knew Tyler, who attended Pleasant Grove Elementary with her son. Kaitlyn recognized Troutman as her previous Drug Abuse and Resistance Education (DARE) program coordinator.

    “Everything went great,” said MWPD Chief Roy Daugherty. “The dispatchers kept them calm, the officers were close and able to respond, and it led to a resolution very quickly. We were able to make an arrest without incident”

    Police found numerous home items stored in the suspect’s truck, including electronics, jewelry and video game equipment.

    Dages was charged with second-degree burglary and theft by unlawful taking over $300. He was released on bond from the Bullitt County Detention Center.

    Daugherty said a probable cause hearing was scheduled May 27 in Bullitt District Court. He said further charges could be forthcoming pending a move to a grand jury.

    Dana eventually arrived to a safe home under police protection. Kaitlyn admitted losing her composure when Dana arrived.

    “The minute I saw my Mom I started to cry my eyes out,” she said.

    “I was surprised she was so strong,” said Dana. “She’s an extremely sensitive person. She thought of her siblings. I’m proud of them, too. I’m glad they listened and remained quiet.”

    “My teachers said I was brave,” Tyler mentioned.

    “I don’t think I would’ve acted the same if they weren’t there,” Kaitlyn said.

    Eastside Middle School teachers and counselors talked with Kaitlyn the next week. She said it was hard to sleep at first, staying at her Grandma’s that first night.

    Dana said the family has improved home safeguards while discussing emergency plans.

    “It definitely opened our eyes for things we’d like to change,” she said.

A Hero Among Heroes

    County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts presented a plaque to Kaitlyn for her bravery. Plaques were also presented to dispatchers Allen, Hall and Scott, and Officers Troutman and Hardin.

    Dispatchers presented Kaitlyn with gifts and a tour of the facility.

    “You just don’t understand the wonderful job that you did,” Allen said to Kaitlyn. “We’re celebrating your bravery and the outcome. You basically saved the lives of your family.”

    “These dispatchers were all veterans and it went like clockwork,” said Johnson. “Their experience and emotion helped. They did their individual jobs and relayed to one another. Teri kept the police alerted. Kim made a point to contact Mom as soon as they were safe. The most important thing is that Amber remained calm.”

    The dispatchers were honored to meet Kaitlyn in person, something that often doesn’t happen after a successful call.

    “It’s the first time I got to meet a person who was on the phone,” said Allen. “They exist in real life. It’s a great feeling knowing you helped and knowing that the family appreciates what you did.”

    “This was a good example of when everything works out right and everyone does the right thing,” Daugherty said.

    Kaitlyn is a typical teen. She enjoys soccer, cheerleading and history, likes to write, loves music and hopes to become a criminal lawyer. She was honored and surprised that experts said she did better on her call than most adults.

    “When I was doing it I thought I was freaking out,” she said.

    Kaitlyn also felt closer to her family since the event.

    “She gave her brother a hug and a kiss,” said Dana. “That was big.”