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A Most Common Palm Coast Tale: A Burglary, But With a Christmas Sting

| December 21, 2011

Rihannon Gross and her son, Lathan, by their Christmas tree. (© FlaglerLive)

“The bad man took your videos, didn’t he,” Rhiannon Gross says to her two-and-a-half-year-old son, Lathan Davide. Lathan, sitting at the table, chews on a cardboard candy box, watching intently as his mom talks with another stranger. “The Grinches who stole the holiday,” Gross says with a sad chuckle.

Gross, 33, lives in a modest house on Red Barn Drive, across from Rymfire Drive in Palm Coast. She’s originally from Brooklyn. When she returned home after a full day’s work and a trip to McDonalds with her son, at 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 12, a Monday, she noticed something odd. First, she found that one of her two dogs had somehow been confined to the storage room—not where she’d left him that morning. After letting him out, she noticed Christmas gifts vanished from under the tree. Her other dog wasn’t in the house. All her electronics were gone—DVD, Wii, laptop, TV. She ran into her bedroom to find it in disarray—her jimmied window-screen lying on the bedroom carpet, clothes pulled from the dresser, her jewelry box ransacked, the drawers lying empty on the floor. As the shock set in, she had a moment of relief when she saw her second dog loose in the backyard, through the empty window.

To Help:



  • Donated toys or gifts may be dropped off or mailed to Rihannon Gross's mother's house at 4 Point Place, Palm Coast, FL 32164. Or call Rihannon at 386/503-8465.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about this burglary, but only because it’s become so common. It is one of dozens of burglaries and larcenies reported to police every week, and it’s the one type of crime that refuses to drop in Palm Coast and Flagler County. Florida’s crime rate is at a 40-year low, the overall crime rate in Flagler fell more than 4 percent last year, and violent crime statewide and locally is also down. But there were an average of four larcenies per day in Flagler in 2010, a year that saw burglaries jump 44 percent in the first half of the year until the Sheriff instituted a “crime suppression team” that focuses on hot crime areas. Foreclosed and empty homes are like catnip to burglars. The second half of the year saw a decrease of burglaries steep enough to erase the first half’s jump, but not so steep as to actually reduce the number of burglaries year-over-year. Most go unresolved, as, most likely, the burglary at Gross’s house will be. And almost all go unreported beyond the cold prose of police reports and blotter-type summaries of crime news where the victims are usually as faceless as their aggressors.

None of this diminishes the anguish Gross experienced, not to mention, between its timing and its targets, the irony of the heist: two weeks before Christmas, with a two-and-a-half-year-old child as a primary victim.

The emptied jewelry chest. (© FlaglerLive)

“Everyone keeps telling me I’m ok,” Gross says, exasperated. “They say my son is ok, my dogs are ok—that I should be grateful for that. I am grateful—but I’m not ok. Those people broke into my house and took my stuff,” Gross says. “I’m a single, hard-working Mom. I work and take online medical science classes at Harvard. I don’t live off the government. I have no financial aid. I can’t afford renter’s insurance. I’ve always volunteered and I participate in Toys For Tots. I’ve always done everything on my own, and I’ve always tried to help others. Now I’m hoping some people will help me.”

Lathan had never seen his mother so upset. A deputy who responded to the 911 call described Gross as “totally irrational and unable to calm down,” a description she didn’t disagree with. “I was a basket case,” Gross says, looking tenderly at her wide-eyed child. “I apologized to the police for my hysteria the next day. It’s just that Lathan didn’t understand what happened to his stuff. This is going to be his first aware Christmas. He’s old enough now that he should understand that it’s actually supposed to be a joyous time.”

To make matters worse, Gross opened her kitchen cabinet to take her anxiety medication at around 1 that morning only to discover that all of her pill bottles were missing. A former hospice nurse of six years and a REACT volunteer (that’s Bob Pickering’s local chapter of the Radio Emergency Associated Communication Teams), Gross suffers from degenerative disc disease and has recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She’s officially handicapped. With the body chemical shift resulting from not taking her dosages, Gross spiraled into depression.

Her mother came to help clean the house and stay the night, cauterizing pieces of her daughter’s and grandson’s lives that weren’t hijacked. Gross now has to pay for her replacement medications out of pocket.

“I can’t believe someone would have the balls to pull a truck up to the back of my house, in broad daylight, and just take everything. I have ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Beware of Dog’ signs out front,” she says, astounded. It isn’t clear when the burglary took place. It could have happened after sunset. But the neighbors to one side of the house said they were home after 3 p.m. and heard nothing.


One has to ask, why were the dogs—a Shepherd mix and a Terrier Mix, close to 50 pounds each and quite loud in the presence of strangers—so cooperative with the assailant? “I don’t know,” Gross says. “I thought they would’ve done something but they didn’t. All dogs are different, I guess, just like people. Some people wouldn’t steal presents from under the Christmas tree, others would.”

The police said there were tire tracks, most likely produced by a large vehicle, going from the front yard to the back. The burglars jimmied either the back screen door or the bedroom window, both of which were open. The majority of burglaries and larcenies in Palm Coast are the result of inattentive property owners who leave cars and homes unlocked, bay windows open, garage doors gaping open. Not in this case, Gross says: she usually locks all. The burglars took the cords to each of the missing electronics, but left behind the cases to her laptop and camera. According to Gross, the burglars’ hands made direct contact only with objects that had what the police called porous textures—for instance, the felt on the inside of a drawer or the plastic part of a child-proof door handle. They left no discernible fingerprints, suggesting that the burglars were experienced.

“All I really want back is the memory chip for my camera,” she says. “That chip contains a year of my son’s life from Christmas 2010 through Thanksgiving 2011 that I can’t get back. If they could just leave it in my mailbox or if someone could somehow lead me to it, my family and I would be willing to offer an undisclosed reward. Otherwise, we’ll just be forced to make new memories.”

The next most valuable and treasured items taken were her Grandmother’s Austrian jewelry, dating back to 1915, as well Lathan’s Star of David.

A week after the burglary the Christmas tree was not as denuded of presents as it was the previous Monday. A couple of wrapped presents sat there, the result of a few donations. The St. Jude Foundation, which could’ve only heard of the burglary through the grapevine, according to Gross, sent Lathan a new teddy bear. Members of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department returned after their initial crime scene visit, bearing gifts as well. A neighbor donated some unwrapped toys to keep Lathan busy before Christmas, since he no longer has his tapes.

Gross thinks a minute when asked about her next step. “I’d like to say move,” she says, “but I don’t live in a bad neighborhood. Where am I going to go? It’s not a question of where you live, it’s who has the balls to come and do this to your life? You see those commercials where people have their houses broken into and you think to yourself, ‘this is so unrealistic; it can’t happen to me.’ She pauses. “Well, this never happened to us in Brooklyn.”

(© FlaglerLive)

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30 Responses for “A Most Common Palm Coast Tale: A Burglary, But With a Christmas Sting”

  1. Joyce Leichty via Facebook says:

    That sucks! Why do people have to do things with that.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is totally outfageous. How can people stoop so low in life. It takes cowards to hide away and do such a shameful thing to people. Like i’ve said before GOD DOESNT LIKE UGLY!! If these people or persons whoever did this to this family; you really do need to look at yourself and say to yourself: WOULD I WANT SOMEONE TO DO THIS TO MY FAMILY?? I hope and pray that this families personal belongings are returned back to their home safe and sound and for the people or person who did this ask for forgiveness from GOD! We dont need to take from others. Its better to GIVE THAN TO TAKE!!! So please think about what you have done here and put it back together. May God watch over this family during these troubled times and give them the peace that they deserve. Our prayers go out to you and your family. Hopefully we will hear about this situation coming to an end and becoming a positive one. GOD BLESS!!

  2. Rhiannon Gross via Facebook says:

    thanks joice..

  3. Rhiannon Gross via Facebook says:

    im trying to be strong for Lathan…

    • Xtremewayz7@aol.com says:

      Rhiannon, I have a 27inch tv in my garage your welcome to have , its old but has a good picture, really sux people would do something like that , if you want the Tv I`m right up belle terre off whipporwill , just email a time you`ll be home and I`ll bring it by , might have some other things too

      • Rhiannon says:

        ■Donated toys or gifts may be dropped off or mailed to Rihannon Gross’s mother’s house at 4 Point Place, Palm Coast, FL 32164. Or call Rihannon at 386/503-8465.

        thank u in advance..

  4. Joyce Leichty via Facebook says:

    We would like to help. What does he need?

  5. Sandra Reynolds via Facebook says:

    Bastards!

  6. Art Araya via Facebook says:

    how can we help Rhiannon?

  7. Joyce Leichty via Facebook says:

    The article gives her number and her mothers address.

  8. Rhiannon says:

    I am trying to stay strong. I will not let this take me down. “That which does not kill me, shall make me stronger”… Thanks to everyone for the concern and support… with love from Rhi & Lathan

  9. Lefty Wilbury says:

    What an awful thing – to violate someone’s sanctuary….. I’d be fit to be tied.
    I can only hope that the sub-humans who did this are caught, and they are forced to
    reveal what they did with Rihannon’s property.

    I have a relative in south Florida that was robbed at gunpoint yesterday, was pistol-whipped in
    his house – and watched helplessly as they ransacked his house. He has a concussion and a nasty gash as parting gifts.

    People are most susceptible to being robbed when they have a regular pattern of coming and going, and the creeps are always watching. It can be a neighbor (most likely) who tips off the crooks, or someone you thought was a friend.

    Watch out, people are desperate these days.

    Best of luck to Rihannon and Lathan Gross – may this be the last bit of unpleasantness for a very long time. Hang in there.

  10. Jenna A. says:

    We love you Rhi & Lathan and will do what we can to help.

  11. We are taking up a collection among our members who can.

  12. Jennifer s says:

    Re I’m so sorry !!!its a sad world we live in!!!keep ur head up!!!God bless u guys!!!

  13. Marc0s says:

    46 Million Americans only source of food is from food stamps today and many across this country are too busy trying to find food, let alone buying Christmas trees or gifts. All of you Please take a second this holiday to look in the mirror and realize you are the one who keeps voting in the people who cause this. Happy Holidays!

    Crime at 40 year lows in FLA – haha thanks for my laugh today!

  14. Charles Ericksen, Jr says:

    For someone to come prepared with a truck, drive it into the backyard, take all the items in the house, and know the victims schedule, it tells me, that this “perp” had an earlier visit to or into the house. But neighbor apathy also doesn’t help. If it looks suspicious call FCSO, and they will respond. Sorry for your loss.

    • Lefty says:

      Neighbor apathy is understandable in the “R” section. I lived on Rolling Sands for six months and can tell you that it’s dangerous. The “P” section is seedy is well.

      I live in the “E” section now and can tell you that this area is in decline as well.
      Buying a home here was a big mistake.

      One attempted break-in, and one car vandalized.

      As far as Palm Coast is concerned – I am reminded of the saying: “Beauty is only skin-deep.”

      • Ben Dover says:

        I said it here once before, you can thank the Palm Coast City Counsel and code enforcement for letting section 8`s in all of our neighborhoods, most of these people are drug dealers who milk the system dry for food stamps, free housing and free money cards , they have more gold in their mouth and hanging around their neck then most people have in their jewelry boxes, they have new suv`s with 3 thousand dollar rims and expensive stereo systems. They destroy the houses they are living in ,and the housing values of everyone around them. They put that ugly metal fencing up all over this town making it look like a slum, now they want to build low income housing up in Matanzas Woods , whats it going to be called Tenement On The Green, these counsel members are destroying our nice quite little town , and collecting fat paychecks while doing it.

  15. elaygee says:

    Her hobbies and activities undercut her ‘disability’ claim.

    • Nancy N. says:

      First off, I don’t hear anywhere in that article Rhiannon (who I don’t know, by the way) making a statement or claim that she is disabled. It was said about her by the writer.

      Also, just because you have something that is considered a disability medically doesn’t mean that you have to sit in bed and wait to die! That’s what doctors are for – to help treat you so that you can continue as best as possible to lead as full a life as possible. It sounds like Rhiannon and her doctor are doing a great job of that.

      Or maybe you’d prefer that we build warehouse style sanitariums full of hospital beds for everyone who is labeled as having a “disability”?

    • Rhiannon says:

      I am glad u think u know me or my hobbies, enough to talk about my health or what i can or can not do,.
      i walk around with a titanium plate and screws in my neck. u do not feel my pain! I do not sit at home and live off funded money. i am a full time office mngr witha position i have held for 6 years. i am declared legally medically disabled, yet i keep a smile on my face and try to maintain a “normal” lifestyle for both me and my son. U will never understand how i feel when my arms go numb do to dead nerves whle i am holding my son; being afraid to drop him, or better yet, hold a can of soda or a fork in ur hands and it fall right out because you have no feeling. Besides this write up was about some punks who tried to destroy my life not about my illness. Maybe you really need to walk in my shoes before you speak on things you know nothing about.

      • EDDIE says:

        NO BODY KNOWS YOU BETTER THEN YOUR SELF AMEN GREAT WORDS SPOKEN SORRY TO HEAR THAT BUT KEEP UP THE FIGHT WITH YOUR GOOD LOOKING BOY CONTINUE EVERY DAY TO BE THAT GREAT MOM AND HE WILL KEEP YOU SMILING THANKS FOR THE INFORMATION I READ I HAVE A HOUSE ON R SECTION IM BACK AND FORTH FROM NY TO PALM COAST IN R SECTION I HEAR LATELY A COUPLE BREAK IN NOT A GOOD THING NICE CITY PALM COAST CLEAN NOT LIKE BROOKLYN LOL WERE I GREW UP HAVE A BLESS NEW YEAR WITH YOUR SON GOD BLESS YOU THIS NEW COMING YEAR AND DESPITE YOUR HEALTH YOU KEEP GOING STRONG

  16. Binkey says:

    Whoever did this had a lot of information. I f you see something suspicious in your neighborhood call the police to check it out.

    With that said, I was going out last night and saw a teenager lurking around one of my neighbors yard, not following my own advice, I chased him off into the woods. My wife and I then went and informed our neighbor about it and the teenager came back. He apologized, told us he was waiting for his girlfriend to go for a walk. We asked questions and he answered. It turned out ok, but really if he was an armed perp, it could have been bad.

  17. Tammy Major says:

    Rhiannon, I am so sorry to hear that this has happened to you. They hit my house just 4 days before yours, ransacked the same way, pulled right up to the back door and emptied out all of the items that I have worked so hard to get. I too am a single mom so I understand your hardship. I just hope they are able to catch these guys and bring them to justice. I truly do not know how they sleep at night!

    @Charles Ericksen, Jr- Unfortunately I think we are random targets and they just got lucky so to speak, I have no connections to Rhiannon and my house was as destroyed as hers was and I live in Bunnell. These are just lowlife scumbags out to destroy the lives of others without a care. They will have their day just hope it is sooner rather than later.

    • Anonymous says:

      This message is for tammy major it is important that you contact me at my home as soon as possible i need to ask you questions about your house robbery. i am rhiannons dad my address is listed in the flagler live article.thank you mr.gross

    • Rhiannon says:

      im sorry to hear that. as i; im sure feeling violated is an understatment. i hope you had serial # to some of ur items. i know i should be grateful that taht my family unit is ok, but some part of me still feels empty. best of luck to you. I hope they find these ppl.

  18. Anonymous says:

    i WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE PALM COAST COMMUNITY FOR BEING SO HELPFUL IN DONATING GIFTS AND MONEY FOR MY DAUGHTERS FAMILY WHOS HOUSE WAS ROBBED A WEEK AGO,AND EVERYTHING THAT SHE OWNED WAS STOLEN BY SOME DIRTBAGS.IT IS NICE TO KNOW THAT THERE STILL ARE GOOD PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD AND WE ALL MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN PEOPLES LIVES DAILY.AS THE PALM COAST COMMUNITY HAS DEMONSTRATED WITH THERE BLESSINGS OF CHARITY FOR RHI AND LATHAN.I AM ASKING THE COMMUNITY TO WATCH EACH OTHERS HOME AND ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS THAT DOES NOT SEEM WRIGHT,TO CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY.IT SEEMS THAT THE PEOPLE THAT ROBBED MY FAMILIES HOME BREAKS INTO THE HOUSE FROM THE BACK YARD AAND DRIVES A CAR OR TRUCK TO THE BACK PATIO DOOR OR REAR WINDOWS.IF YOU SEE ANY VEHICLE IN A BACK YARD THIS IS A POSSIBLE HOUSE BEING ROBBED CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY AND IF YOU CAN TRY TO GET A LICENSE PLATE TO GIVE TO THE POLICE FOR THERE INVESTIGATION ONCE AGAIN THANK YOU ALL.

  19. nnieghbor says:

    I recommend installing cameras. I hope friends are being helpful during these hard times …

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