Video shows mother finding homeless person in child’s bed

Woman says her dogs went ‘crazy, specifically my chihuahua, which was running circles around my legs, which was really unusual’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 20 September 2022 16:10 BST
Mum recalls moment she found homeless person in child's bed

Home surveillance video has shown a homeless woman found sleeping in a child’s bed in a home in Portland, Oregon.

Mother Kelsey Smith found the woman in her son’s bed after her dogs started barking, prompting her to leave her back porch and check what was going on in her home on Monday.

The northeast Portland resident is now saying more active measures need to be taken to deal with the area’s problems with homeless people.

Ms Smith told KPTV that she was on the back deck speaking to a friend on the phone when she heard her dogs barking. She checked the front door as she was awaiting the arrival of contractors to work on an accessible bathroom for her son.

When she found the front empty, she walked through her living room while still on the phone.

“The dogs continued to go crazy, specifically my chihuahua, which was running circles around my legs, which was really unusual,” Ms Smith told KPTV. “I followed her to where the other dog was into my children’s bedroom. My lab was standing on top of the bed on top of a pile of clean clothes that I had thrown on there. I walked in wondering if she had cornered a mouse or something because she was going crazy and I realized there was a person under there.”

Initially, she thought it was her husband, and she called out his name. But she then realized it was a complete stranger.

“I backed out of the room, talking to my friend on the phone saying I needed help, that there was a homeless person in the kid’s bed,” she added. “At that point, she leapt up, I recognized her as a woman. She hopped off the bed and picked up the ottoman at the foot of the bed and bum-rushed me, threw it at me, and then meandered out the door.”

Ms Smith, who has a camera in her son’s bedroom for medical monitoring, can be heard in the footage telling the woman to leave the home.

“My first thought was what is going on?” she told KPTV. “The fear didn’t come until after she was gone and I started to run through the scenarios in my head about how this could have played out differently if my younger kids had been home. My 24-year-old son heard the commotion and came running upstairs, charging up the stairs because he knew something was wrong. He went straight out the door and into the street following her, calling 911.”

The mother told the local TV station that the woman was found by Portland police trying to enter another home on the same street.

According to KPTV, the Portland Police Bureau has confirmed that Terri Lynn Zinser, 54, was taken into custody, and she was charged with burglary in the first degree and harassment. She was taken to Multnomah County Detention Center.

“I was glad she was caught,” Ms Smith told KPTV. “I saw she obviously needed help, so I asked what would happen if they took her to a hospital. They told me she would be out within two hours. So I said okay, I want to press charges.”

“This is not okay. Then I found out they released her the next day. That’s really disheartening considering we went through and looked at our Next Door app and there was another person who had posted a picture of her breaking into their house,” she said. “I’ve had multiple people send me her arrest reports which is a very long list of trespassing, harassment, assault and burglary. I actually just spoke with my mail carrier today who told me she’s started to carry mace because the woman was harassing her, that she couldn’t walk down the street without the woman screaming at her, swearing at her, following her around. She told me she doesn’t feel safe around that woman.”

Ms Smith told the outlet that she contacted the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office about pressing charges.

“They said the charges have been dropped and that I can leave a message for the DA and he can call you back,” Ms Smith told KPTV. “I haven’t heard anything and that was two days ago. I have to assume someone heard that message and nobody has gotten back to me. I don’t understand why she is not in jail. She’s not harmless. She proved that. She’s proved that from the stories that I’ve heard from other people.

“I feel like the city is declining rapidly and there is a need for more mental health services, more training for the police, probably more police, more community outreach, but I don’t know,” she added. “I’m not a city official. I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know that what they are doing right now is not working.

“I have a really great group of neighbours surrounding me,” Ms Smith said. “I think it’s really important to connect with your neighbours, get their contact information, exchange all that kind of stuff, and look out for each other. I know that they will.”

In a statement to The Independent, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said that “based on recent federal court rulings and recent history with this defendant having similar cases dismissed due to a lack of participation in treatment and the court’s inability to compel the defendant to participate in treatment, we had initial concerns about whether we could proceed with this case at this time”.

“The accused had recently spent months at the Oregon State Hospital during which time the staff there was unable to restore her ability to aid and assist her court appointed lawyer. She was then ordered to engage in treatment in the community, but she did not appear for her evaluation and she left the treatment facility,” the office added. “Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Nan Waller dismissed the previous charges pending against her in early August. Our Strategic Prosecution Unit is reviewing this case and the previously dismissed cases to determine whether we are able to proceed with prosecution.”

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