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9/19/2007 4:59pm,
Would-be burglar ends up in the buff

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Wayne Boniface, 69, formerly of Frederic, fought off an intruder in his Duluth home last Thursday, leaving the man looking for cover. – Special photo

Gary King 12.SEP.07

DULUTH – When police arrived at the Wayne and Kathie Boniface residence in Duluth last Thursday evening on a burglary call, they asked Wayne if he got a good description of the man who had entered their house.

”What is he wearing?” the officer asked.

“Now, or when he was in our house?” Wayne replied.

The puzzled policeman looked around and saw pieces of clothing at the scene, including socks and shoes.

“He laughed,” Boniface said. “I told him the guy would be easy to catch because he’s the only nude dude running around Duluth.”

The 20-year-old intruder had lost all of his clothes during a 5-minute scuffle with Boniface, 69, who used wrestling holds and adrenaline-driven strength to muscle the man out of his home and over the railing of his porch, which sits six to 10 feet off the ground.

“He was a big guy, I’d say 5-11, 180 pounds,” Boniface said.

The Bonifaces had just enjoyed a meal at a neighbor’s home – 80 feet away – when they returned to their house and noticed someone was inside.

Kathie, the first to enter the house, thought at first it was their grandson. “Is that you, David?” she asked.

The man then ran towards the back door and said, “I’m with the FBI and you’re blowing my cover.”

Little did he know his cover would be coming off in the next few minutes.

“Kathie went after him,” Boniface said. “And I’m right behind her not knowing what’s going on. He grabbed her and threw her down. My adrenaline kicked in and I sailed through the kitchen and tackled him and got him on the ground.”

Boniface said he put the intruder in a headlock and began dragging him out of the house when he attempted to inflict even more pain.

“I took my middle finger and put it in his mouth. He’s trying to get up and yelling, ‘I give, I give.’”

The two men scuffled through the dining room as Kathie dialed 911.

“She’s more of a hero than I am,” Boniface noted.

The fight continued onto the porch with the intruder half-crawling and half trying to run, according to Boniface, who managed to wrangle the man onto the deck railing. Holding the intruder’s T-shirt with one hand and the belt of his pants in the other, Boniface locked his leg in the slats of the deck railing when the intruder’s shirt let loose and came off. Still holding the man’s belt, he used his now free right hand to reach around and grab the man’s private parts on the outside of his pants and began to squeeze.

”Now he’s really moving fast,” Boniface said.

Letting go of the man’s crotch, Boniface then gripped the young man’s belt with both hands and the man began falling over the deck railing to the ground.

“I end up holding only his pants and boxers,” Boniface said.

The intruder streaked away but was found by neighbors and police about 20 minutes later in woods behind the Observation Hill neighborhood.

Police led Boniface to the squad car to identify the suspect who was sitting in the back seat, hands handcuffed behind his back, still naked.

“I said ‘Yep, it’s no big thing, but I’d recognize him anywhere,’” Boniface quipped.

The intruder, who was later identified as Keith C. Bellanger, has been charged with two counts of first-degree burglary. He has a probation violation on a second-degree burglary conviction and four other warrants for receiving stolen property, interfering with a peace officer and underage consumption.

Although the Bonifaces are well-known in the Frederic area, Wayne working for the Inter-County Cooperative Publishing Association for years as the ad manager for the Advertisers, and Kathie working as a personal banker, this event made them even more well-known – on a national scale.

“I’ve been on 20 radio stations across the country,” Wayne said. “I’m getting calls from old friends. One man who I hadn’t seen for years – I was best man at his wedding in the ‘60s - called me from Florida after reading about it there.”

One night this week they went out to eat and a local restaurant owner said their meal and drinks would be free. People recognized them when they went shopping.

The Bonifaces admitted they probably made a mistake by leaving their house unlocked, but they were dining just 80 feet away. Duluth Police officer Barry Midthun, who knew the Bonifaces through their work together in a neighborhood watch program, said what the couple did wasn’t exactly recommended by police, but he still had praise for the couple.

“They are someone you or I would want as our neighbors,” he said.

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