Saturday, February 04, 2023

Eureka man accused of breaking into girlfriend's home, threatening her

Daily Inter Lake | February 25, 2022 7:00 AM

A Eureka man faces burglary and partner or family member assault charges after allegedly breaking into his girlfriend’s home in December.

Benjamin Joseph Brown, 43, pleaded not guilty to both counts in Lincoln County District Court during his Feb. 7 arraignment. The former charge is a felony while the latter is a misdemeanor.

Law enforcement had several run-ins with Brown in 2021 leading up to his December arrest, according to court documents. In February of that year, deputies responded to his girlfriend’s home for an incident allegedly involving a rifle. In September, her neighbor phoned authorities, telling them that Brown was on her property and refusing to leave.

In that incident, according to court documents, the caller claimed that Brown had run his truck into her house and was armed with a rifle.

On Dec. 2, Deputy Clint Heintz headed to the girlfriend’s home after she called 911 and told dispatchers that Brown was drunk and tended to get violent when intoxicated. In an affidavit, Heintz reported arriving on scene about 4:32 a.m. He spotted Brown’s truck, but not him.

Joined by the Eureka police chief, Heintz cleared the home and made contact with the girlfriend, who had locked herself in the bathroom. When they failed to find Brown, she moved his vehicle down the driveway in case he returned for the truck, court documents said.

Authorities returned to the home later that morning, about 8:50 a.m., for another sighting of Brown. According to court documents, Brown was gone when Detective Dan Holskey arrived at the home.

Heintz signed off for the day and got some sleep before returning to work about 4 p.m. As he started his shift, he learned that authorities in Libby arrested Brown when he arrived for a court hearing on a driving under the influence charge.

Following the arrest, Heintz sat down with Brown’s girlfriend to go through the morning’s events. She told him that he was splitting wood at her house when she went to bed after sundown. Brown, who had been drinking, was gone when she awoke, according to court documents.

She texted him and went back to bed. At some future point, Brown returned and began banging on her door. She told Heintz that she called 911, but only asked for a law enforcement response after he got the key to the home her realtor kept out front for showings. She retreated to the bathroom, telling Heintz she was “scared [Brown] would hurt her.”

He left shortly before law enforcement arrived, she said.

After Heintz and Eureka police departed the scene, she recalled going back to bed. She was reawakened when her dogs began barking at Brown, who fetched his truck. He then allegedly began calling her from a local pub about 8 a.m.

Heintz’s affidavit references a call log taken from her phone. In it, Brown called both her cell and home phone repeatedly, at 8:13 a.m., 8:21 a.m., 8:32 a.m., twice at 8:33 a.m., 8:34 a.m., 8:37 a.m., 8:41 a.m., 8:42 a.m., 8:44 a.m., twice at 8:45 a.m. and then finally at 8:47 a.m.

Brown allegedly returned to her home again. This time, the realtor’s key was gone. Not finding it, he punched a hole in the side door and got inside, court documents said. That precipitated the second 911 call, the girlfriend told Heintz.

She ran out the door, clutching the house phone, which she used to call authorities. She put that on the bumper of the pickup. When Brown caught up with her, he allegedly missed the house phone, but took her mobile phone, “shut if off and said, ‘no phone calls,” according to court documents.

Afterward, he got back into his truck and left, she said.

In Holskey’s narrative, also attached to the affidavit, he recalled listening to one of the messages Brown allegedly left for his girlfriend. In it, Holskey wrote, Brown can be heard accusing her of dating someone else and insults her.

When the girlfriend told Holskey that Brown had a court appearance in Libby that morning on a driving under the influence charge, the detective contacted Capt. Boyd White. He asked the captain to arrest Brown upon his arrival in Libby.

On Dec. 3, Heintz reported meeting with Brown at the Lincoln County Detention Center. Brown expressed confusion at his present circumstances after Heintz read him his Miranda rights. Heintz recalled asking if Brown understood his rights and wanted to speak with law enforcement. Brown refused without his attorney present, according to court documents.

Felony burglary, for Brown’s alleged break-in at his girlfriend’s home, is punishable by up to 20 years in the Montana State Prison and a $50,000 fine. Misdemeanor partner or family member assault carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.