c/o Max Forstein

c/o Max Forstein

According to an all-campus email sent by Public Safety (PSafe) on the night of Wednesday, April 17 at 10:44 p.m., an unknown suspect entered Bennet Hall and stole property from University students. The suspect was seen entering WestCo shortly afterwards but was not apprehended. At this time, multiple students have reported missing items, including personal belongings and cash.

An eyewitness saw the intruder enter Bennet Hall around 8:30 p.m. but initially thought he was a student. They saw him make a beeline for the long hallway on the first floor and another student reported his presence to PSafe soon after. 

Directly after the report, action was taken to locate and identify the suspect, but he was not found. The first PSafe officers arrived at Bennet around 8:45 p.m., and at around 9:00 p.m., more PSafe officers, along with Bennet Area Coordinator (AC) Dovonne Adams, went around the building to alert residents of the intrusion and ask whether students had seen anything or anyone suspicious. 

“All of the students that were in the area were interviewed and their statements taken,” Director of PSafe Scott Rohde wrote in an email to The Argus. “A complete description of the perpetrator was shared with Middletown police and an area canvas was completed.”

Check-ins were done door-to-door for unaffected halls, but PSafe gathered students living on the first floor to the Bennet common area to discuss the incident. Multiple first-floor residents reported missing items from that hall, including Ezra Key-Cohen ’27, who had $15 taken from his room.

“I feel like that was almost reassuring that despite leaving my door unlocked, they only took $15,” Key-Cohen said. “[Bennet…doesn’t] automatically lock…. And I think it’s also especially bad for freshmen who are bad at remembering to do that and are especially vulnerable to stupid stuff.”

The thefts were not isolated to Bennet. Miranda Yang ’27, a resident of WestCo 4, had her groceries taken by the intruder. 

“My hallmates told me that he was going around saying he had a bunch of Trader Joe’s, [and] I had just gone shopping, and he also had taken somebody’s purse, but they got it back by cornering him in the WestCo stairwell,” Yang said. “I got [my groceries] back because he gave it out to people in WestCo, kind of like a twisted Robin Hood-type thing. He just stole my stuff, but for no reason, and then gave it out.” 

Eyewitnesses reported seeing the intruder, posing as a DoorDash driver, enter many residents’ unlocked rooms in WestCo, looking for cash. Haig Murgio ’26 interacted with the thief in his room as he was in the act of stealing more money.

“[My roommates and I] heard a knock at my bedroom door, and then it opened,” Murgio said. “We were like ‘Oh, that’s weird.’ We got up, walked in, and there was a random dude there. I didn’t notice anything off, but my roommate noticed he had grabbed my friend’s wallet. We blocked off the door and made him give us the wallet back. [After he did], we asked him what he was doing there, and he kept responding, ‘Doordash. Is this room 319?’”

Murgio and his friends attempted to gather more information, but the intruder slipped by them before they got an answer. They immediately contacted PSafe about the incident.

As there was no camera footage of the perpetrator and the description given of the individual who entered the buildings was vague, the Middletown Police Department (MPD) has been unable to identify the suspect but is still investigating the case.

While Rohde’s all-campus email gave the community a brief overview of the events, Bennet and WestCo residents were given some additional information from their Area Coordinators. The ACs from each dormitory sent emails to residents on the evening of Thursday, April 18, explaining that the intruder was in both dorms and that those who have reported missing items have been in communication with their office and PSafe. Additionally, they urged anyone else who is missing items from their rooms to reach out, and they issued a reminder to lock doors and not let unfamiliar individuals into the buildings.

In 2023, there were 81 cases of 6th-degree larceny—cases of theft where the property taken is valued at $250 or less—in Middletown, Conn., according to MPD crime statistics. There were nine total cases of sixth-degree larceny recorded in January and February of this year. However, larceny and break-ins don’t typically happen at the University. 

“This continues to be an infrequent occurrence in the Wesleyan campus,” Rohde wrote. “Buildings most at risk are residential living spaces because suspects are looking for property to easily steal.”

Even though break-ins aren’t reported often on campus, this marks the second case of the year, after an intruder broke into the Butterfield A dormitory in January over winter break. This is the first case this year where a break-in led to property theft. Last year, an intruder entered the Nicolson 5 residence hall in January as well. The incident on Wednesday, April 17 is the first case since 2018 where a residence was broken into during the school year.

Property theft is also fairly uncommon on campus. It happened in 2015, when a student was robbed at knifepoint while walking on Church Street late at night. Other thefts have taken place on campus in the past few years, but they usually involve vehicles or their catalytic converters.  

After the break-in and theft at Bennet and WestCo, PSafe has increased their patrols and is conducting a lighting assessment of the area. The area was secured shortly after the incident, and many students who had their property stolen were able to recover it. 

While some students are worried about their safety, others emphasized that being careful has lessened their fears. 

“I feel totally fine,” Bennet resident Maddy Marx ’27 said. “My roommate and I, we lock our door when we leave anyway, which a lot of people I know don’t do. And we were saying to each other we’re glad that we are in that habit…. It didn’t seem like he was dangerous. He was just looking for money here.”

A student who was visiting Bennet during the time of the incident mentioned concerns about the safety features of the building, especially because their doors do not lock automatically, unlike many other dormitories. 

“I definitely think, safety-wise, it can obviously be a little bit of a hazard because Bennet has automatic doors that don’t necessarily close right after someone enters,” Jade Ma ’27 said. “Because of that, it makes it very easy for random people to get in.”

In concern for the safety of their hallmates in Bennet, student athletes attempted to protect their hallmates from the intruder after they learned of the incident. 

“A bunch of the guys in Bennet, like especially the athletes, [were] all huddled in the main entrance,” Bennet resident Daniel Chan ’27 said. “Some people had baseball bats and golf clubs…. Obviously the guy had been gone for so long by then.” 

The all-campus email advised students to be aware of locking their doors to prevent further thefts. Rohde provided more details for actions concerned students can take to keep their property safe. 

“Lock your doors, effectively communicate with your roommates or housemates, do not prop doors open or allow people you do not know into the residential space,” Rohde wrote. “Always report suspicious activity promptly to Public Safety.”

Caleb Henning can be reached at chenning@wesleyan.edu

Max Forstein can be reached at mforstein@wesleyan.edu