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Different Kind of Home Intrusion in Hammock: Intruder Apologizes (But Is Arrested)

| January 30, 2017

Benjamin Wytiaz

Benjamin Wytiaz.

It was Saturday afternoon, just before sundown. The 53-year-old tenant at the Hammock house on North Ocean Shore Boulevard, just south of Bing’s Landing, was in the bathroom. When she got out, she was almost face to face with a stranger, a 35-year-old man, who was standing in her house. She didn’t know him, and of course he didn’t know her: he had essentially not just walked in uninvited, but jumped a fence in order to make his way to the house. 

The woman was startled. But so was he. She asked him what he was doing in her house–and asked if she could help him. The man, Benjamin Wytiaz, then apologized for being in the house and started walking out, saying he was looking for a woman called Wanda Jones. He turned around, walked out, then jumped the fence again and fled. 

The victim called 911 and reported the incident, giving a description of Wytiaz. Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies responded, and later, found Wytiaz a few blocks away, on Armand Beach Drive, and placed him in handcuffs (for officer safety, his arrest report states, “due to not knowing if he was armed or would attempt to flee.”)

Wytiaz waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with deputies. He said he was homeless, cold, and looking for a place to sleep. He thought the home–an 1,800 square foot house on the Intracoastal valued at $250,000–was vacant. It’s not an uncommon occurrence–homeless people squatting in vacant homes locally, where there is no shelter for the homeless except on nights when the temperature falls below 40 degrees. That’s when the Sheltering Tree in Bunnell opens a hall at Bunnell’s First Methodist Church. But only for the night. Wytiaz’s  story was similar to that of Markell Peck, who told deputies earlier this month that he broke into Roma Court Academy, the child care center, over Christmas because he was homeless, was cold and needed a place to sleep, though Peck also allegedly stole a small amount of money and a computer tablet from the school and ended up facing two felony counts.

In Wytiaz’s case, the victim was brought to the location where he was found and detained and  identified him as the man who’d been in her home earlier. “The victim also explained she noticed the front storm door to her home appeared to have been manipulated, possibly in an attempt to see if anyone would answer the door and when no one did, he went to the rear of the home,” she said.

Last year’s census of the homeless population in Flagler and Palm Coast put the number at 104. This year’s census was conducted just last week (with County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen, a volunteer at the Sheltering Tree, among the volunteers counting the homeless.) The numbers have not yet been released. Wytiaz told authorities he was not part of the local homeless population: he was on his way through the area to go to Jacksonville, and just needed a place for the night.

He has no other arrest record locally. But Wytiaz has a long history of arrests in Seminole, Alachua and Duval counties, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, grand theft (of a vehicle), battery causing harm, theft, drug possession, criminal mischief, drunk driving, fleeing and eluding police, and driving on a suspended license. 

In Flagler, he was charged with trespassing and loitering, two misdemeanors that nevertheless landed him at the Flagler County Jail–where other local homeless individuals have been known to seek to be arrested in order to have a roof over their head,  a meal and warmth. Forty-eight hours later, he remained at the county jail on $1,000 bond. 

16 Responses for “Different Kind of Home Intrusion in Hammock: Intruder Apologizes (But Is Arrested)”

  1. Pat Patterson says:

    We need to discourage homeless folks from living here. They bring nothing positive. Increases crime. We don’t need that. Encourage them to continue South to Orlando or North to Jacksonville. They are better able to accommodate and deal with them.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What do you do? These people who are homeless and are in need of a place to get out of the cold, but are often outlaws, drug abusers, or have mental problems. We all feel for them and would like to help, but when we do they over run the area where the help is being provided. Unfortunately the residents who live in the area get worried for their families safety and the security of their property so they object to these homeless folks wandering around their neighborhoods. I have personally witnessed a homeless man defecating on the east side of the Methodist church in Bunnell in plain view by anyone traversing the adjoining street. Children often are walking up and down these streets and have witnessed scenes such as this I’m sure. If there were Shelters placed outside of these residential areas perhaps and increased patrols by police we could help some of these folks. Any Ideas?

  3. Anonymous says:

    How about the homeless look for jobs instead of begging for othet people’s money and pity. They sit outside the Walmart parking lot begging for money yet they don’t walk inside and try to get a job. When they are done begging at Walmart they move on but not before throwing all their garbage all over the place. It is pititful to have homeless people, but most of them are not interested on jobs. Most just want money for drugs or alcohol and they don’t want to ve told what to do. How about Palm Coast offer them jobs for a free place to sleep and see how few would take ip the offer.

  4. Ws says:

    How about the homeless look for jobs instead of begging for other people’s money and pity. They sit outside the Walmart parking lot begging for money yet they don’t walk inside and try to get a job. When they are done begging at Walmart they move on but not before throwing all their garbage all over the place. It is pititful to have homeless people, but most of them are not interested in jobs. Most just want money for drugs or alcohol and they don’t want to be told what to do. How about Palm Coast offer them jobs for a free place to sleep and see how few would take up the offer.

  5. Dave says:

    Every city should be made by law to provide refuge for the homeless. It’s not your choice if you want homeless or not, they are part of our society. I’m sure kids seeing someone poop isn’t gonna damage their , who do you think you are that you wouldn’t have to deal with this problem like every other city

  6. Edman says:

    As a volunteer at our shelter I am appalled at the lack of mercy or any attempt to understand the plight of our homeless in the comments about this article. Our homeless have problems but they are not going to be able to address them without our assistance. We need to develop support services that will help them get on their feet again and not just assume they are lazy criminals that don’t want jobs.

  7. Raleigh St. Claire says:

    Flagler County is very fortunate to have only approximately 104 homeless individuals calling the county “home.” The issue with these populations is multi-faceted and there is no one answer for solving it. As stated by another commentor, many of these individuals are mentally ill, some are drug abusers and at times, some are criminals. Many choose to be homeless as part of their lifestyle. This is not an issue in and of itself. Homelessness is not illegal. The problems arise when homeless individuals turn to illegal actions to support their homelessness and/or other vices. This is when the legal activity of being homeless meets a crossroads with “normal” home dwelling society.

    As humans, we should empathize and want to help. However, like another commentor said, helping can lead to unintended consequences. For example, the City of Gainesville decided the way to handle and help their homeless population was to use a former jail as a one stop shop for the Homeless population where they could be provided services with the goal of getting them moving towards more permanent housing and so they wouldn’t congregate in populated areas. They even gave it a welcoming title, “Grace Marketplace.” What happened though was that the “Grace Marketplace” became a magnet and the homeless population ballooned. This resulted in the creation of a makeshift campground outside the doors of “Grace Marketplace” referred to as “Dignity Village.” As the population swelled, the organization running Grace Marketplace lost the ability to effectively perform the services they intended. The so called “Dignity Village” became a tent city and devolved into a crime ridden plot of land which the City’s Police Department was forced to assign two full time officers to patrol around the clock. Fortunately, the location of “Dignity Village” is away from highly populated areas and most of the crime issues have stayed away from the city. However, this will not last. The city is now at their own crossroads so to speak and the only viable option seems to be to shut down the operation completely and start dispersing the population. Indeed, no good deed goes unpunished.

    The answer certainly isn’t to outlaw this population. However, as the cautionary tale above would illustrate, there is no easy answer.

  8. can't fool me says:

    I’m appalled and saddened by the lack of compassion from individuals and the community of PC as a whole. This man apparently meant no harm, apologized, and fled. He was simply looking for overnight shelter from the cold, with none to be found in our community. Perhaps the Sheltering Tree could raise the temperature limit a tad and open more often and perhaps a few other churches could join in the effort. Ideally, a real shelter could be provided much like the one in Jacksonville and so many other communities which actually help the homeless find employment. It’s hard to find a job when you have no access to personal hygiene, proper clothing, contacts, etc. “There but for the Grace of God, go I”. It can happen to anyone – quicker than you think. Writing these individuals off as worthless or wishing them further south is callous. No wonder many welcome spending a night in jail in exchange for a bed and a meal.

  9. Sam says:

    This is a hard situation to sort out, we just can’t kick out the homeless like they don’t exist, but at the same time we need to develop a plan to get them back on their feet. This guy he didn’t want to hurt anyone or else we would have had a different story, on the same token he had made so many bad decisions no one would trust him or give him a job. I am sorry I don’t have the answer since each individual case is different.

  10. Katie Semore says:

    Jesus said that what you do for the least of thee you do for me. Christians, He didn’t exempt the homeless.

  11. Facts says:

    Take care of our homeless. Stop crying about a immigration ban. We need to take care of our citizens first!

  12. Go red says:

    That would make too much sense

  13. John says says:

    Preach Katie, you make a valid point.

  14. jp says:

    Dont be fooled, these people are very dangerous!…..criminals always continue until they commit violence….

  15. Katie Semore says:

    @John, thanks. Homelessness is a difficult thing to address. Many if not most of the long-term homeless suffer from various mental illnesses making some either the aggressor or the victim. People in their right minds would not choose this as a way of life. The short-term homeless are usually victims of circumstances. People, regardless of the reason, need various types and levels of help. Good people help how they can If only to hand a homeless person a bag with a meal in it or a bag with clean socks and some personal care items. They would encourage, support and expect the local churches, temples, mosques and civic organizations to provide feeding stations and shelters. They would support and insist that local governments get involved.

  16. Katie Semore says:

    @jp, some homeless people are criminals but most criminals are not homeless. Let’s not confuse the poor and mentally ill with criminals. Most crimes are committed by those with a roof over their heads and plenty to eat.

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