A man who was caught allegedly trying to break into a house and was held at gunpoint by a neighbor has escaped with a misdemeanor conviction.
The alleged burglar, Eric Michael Ridge, 38, was convicted following a jury trial on the lesser charge of attempted aggravated criminal trespass. He could face up to an 11-month, 29-day sentence when he is sentenced. That charge comes in addition to a conviction on the charge of possession of a weapon for brass knuckles found on Ridge at the time of his arrest.
His arrest came after he was caught trying to break into a residence. The woman who lived in the house called her neighbor when she heard movement on her porch around 4 a.m. The neighbor came running with a shotgun and stopped Ridge in his tracks with a warning shot. His bravely brought high praise from both the victim and law enforcement who heralded him as a hero.
Ridge’s partner in crime, Jonathan Eugene Franzen, 31, fled the scene in a vehicle which was riddled with shotgun pellets fired by the good Samaritan as the wheelman sped away. The neighbor said he was firing a warning shot at the car which was on the road above where he had Ridge on the ground.
However, during trial this past week, defense attorneys Bud Sharp and Lauren Zechman-Denney pointed out the back window of the getaway car, as well as a side view mirror, had been blown out by the neighbor’s volley. Franzen pled guilty last month to his part in the caper and for his involvement in another break-in and is serving six years in prison.
During trial, Ridge maintained he had come to the house for a late-night party and was simply trying to get in when he was caught by the armed neighbor. His defense pointed to his orange hoodie and white shoes, questioning if a burglar would dress in such easy-to-see clothing. The defense further claimed Ridge was drinking and it was Franzen who had brought him to the residence for the alleged private party. The defense also presented witnesses who overheard Ridge talking about going to a party earlier in the evening.
While not completely buying Ridge’s story, jurors were hung enough to acquit him on the top charge of felony attempted aggravated burglary and convict him on the misdemeanor lesser included charge.