Neighbor risks injury to stop suspected burglar

Mar. 07, 2013 @ 11:55 PM

A local man suffered some scrapes and bruises when he tried to stop a suspicious vehicle on the dead end road where he lives and the driver tried to run him down.

Jeff Leihgeber was at his home on Sylvia Lane Tuesday when he saw an unfamiliar car drive past his house and up a hill, toward some houses that are shrouded in trees. His mother, who also lives on the road, called to tell him the car had stopped at the home of some neighbors, Mike and Tammy Sims.

When the car didn’t turn around and come back down the street, Leihgeber took the out some binoculars to see what the driver was up to.

“He was going back and forth from the garage to the back of his car,” he said. At that point, he called 911. But he didn’t stop there. He pulled his van from his driveway to try to block the narrow road, and confronted the man as he tried to leave.

At first, the driver stopped and even backed the car away, Leihgeber said. He waved his hands and tried to get Leihgeber to move. But when Leihgeber asked him what he was doing there, he wouldn’t answer.

Eventually, he realized Leihgeber had called law enforcement — and gunned the car, aiming at Leihgeber, who managed to roll off the hood.

“He was desperate,” Leihgeber said. “He knew he was caught.”

The car scraped the bumper on Leihgeber’s van, and hit his mailbox. It left Leihgeber with some scrapes and bruises.

But sheriff’s deputies stopped the car a short time later, and found tools from the Sims' garage inside.

The driver, William Chad Sutton, of 3208 Cotter Way in Sevierville, spent at least part of his 35th birthday in the Sevier County Jail Wednesday, with a bond set at $30,000. Sutton is charged with felony burglary and aggravated assault.

Leihgeber says he’s sore from the incident, but says he’d do the same thing. In fact, it wasn’t the first time he said he’s confronted burglars who’d been in the homes of neighbors on the cul de sac.

“I was just doing the neighborly thing,” he said. “If something doesn’t look right you ought to look into it.”

 jfarrell@themountainpress.com