Authorities investigate North Apollo home invasion

Liz Hayes
| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 6:12 p.m.

Police are searching for an armed man who allegedly robbed a North Apollo house Thursday afternoon after tying up the 22-year-old resident.

Skip Shaffer, who owns the house at 1418 Cochran Ave., said his son, Derick, was home alone playing his Xbox video-gaming system in his second-floor bedroom when he heard the front door open about 2 p.m.

Shaffer said Derick first thought it was a family member coming home, but soon realized something was amiss: “He looked down the stairs and saw a stranger wearing a ski mask.

“The guy put a gun to (Derick's) head and a knife to his throat,” Shaffer said, pausing to control his emotions as he described his son's ordeal.

The robber bound Derick Shaffer's arms and legs with zip-ties and duct tape before leading him around the house and attached garage to locate valuables, said Jerrod Thompson, chief of the Kiski Township police department, which patrols North Apollo.

Skip Shaffer said the man stole several firearms, thousands of dollars worth of jewelry belonging to Shaffer's wife and at least $500 Shaffer had planned to use for Christmas shopping.

Police believe the man was inside for about 15 minutes before he stole Derick Shaffer's yellow 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and used it as a getaway car.

Thompson said Derick Shaffer, still bound, then got to his video game headset and asked the friend he had been playing to call 911.

“Who'd have thought Xbox could save your life?” Skip Shaffer asked.

Thompson said a description of the distinctive yellow car with black racing stripes was broadcast over regional emergency radios.

The car was found about an hour later in an alley off North Water Street and North Jefferson Avenue in Kittanning. A witness reported seeing a man get out of the car and into a dark sport-utility vehicle.

Police converged on the area and soon spotted a black Jeep Cherokee across the Allegheny River on the border of West Kittanning and East Franklin, near the Butler Road AutoZone store.

Three people were taken into custody and questioned at the Kiski Township police station for a couple hours, but police ultimately released them after determining they weren't involved in the home invasion, Thompson said.

Thompson said police continue to look for the suspect; they have a limited description because of the ski mask.

Because the robber told Derick Shaffer something along the lines of, “Skip owes me,” Thompson said they believe the suspect somehow knows Skip Shaffer.

Thompson said there have been no prior criminal incidents at the Shaffer house.

A state constable who has been inactive since fall 2011, Skip Shaffer is left wondering whether his former duties of serving warrants have left someone holding a grudge against him.

Thompson said a state police investigator searched the Shaffers' home for evidence Thursday evening, and Friday will search the Cobalt, now impounded at the Kiski Township police station.

The car appeared to be undamaged. Thompson said police had not recovered any of the stolen items from it, but were waiting for state police Friday to thoroughly search it.

Shaffer said his son has had a stressful year — Derick Shaffer recently got a clean bill of health after undergoing treatment for cancer that was diagnosed on Good Friday.

Derick Shaffer plans to move to Chicago soon for culinary school, his father said.

Although upset about the home invasion, Skip Shaffer acknowledged it could have been worse. He's thankful his son is safe.

“He's rattled, but he's healthy. That's all that matters,” Shaffer said. “He's doing better than me. I'm a wreck.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or Leader Times staff writer Tim Karan contributed.

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