By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Tampa Police Department arrested Devon Hidlebaugh, also known as the Austin Intruder, on charges of burglary, grand theft, and battery, on Tuesday afternoon. While Hidlebaugh was on campus, a female student got his name and number and was able to provide that information to a TPD officer. Officers apprehended Hidlebaugh on U.S. Highway 301 South in Riverview.
Last week, Hidlebaugh entered McKay Hall, Austin Hall and the Barrymore Hotel, after someone let him in the main lobbies, which allowed him access to unlocked rooms, said TPD spokesperson Andrea Davis. Hidlebaugh allegedly took items from one of the rooms including $500 in cash. Fortunately, two of the three rooms he entered were unoccupied and the third he left after the resident woke up and startled him.
According to Davis, Hidlebaugh was caught because, coincidentally, a TPD officer was on campus talking to the students about safety last week. A student mentioned that some dorm rooms were entered by an intruder and the officer initiated an investigation.
“I want to reiterate that someone let him in the dorm [building] and all of the dorm rooms that he broke into were unlocked,” Davis said. “Even in a dorm, you need to lock your doors.”
On Friday, Oct. 23, all students received a global message alerting them of an intruder. The email read: “On the evening of 10/22/15 at approximately 6:50 p.m., an unknown male gained access to Austin Hall by following a person who swiped into the building through card access. The unknown male then entered an unlocked student room and began rummaging through the occupant’s belongings. The occupant of the room woke up, surprising the intruder. The intruder fled the room and building. Later that evening, he entered another room without authorization in the Barrymore Hotel and was found by the residents rummaging through their things. He is described as a white male with brown hair. He was wearing a royal blue t-shirt and camouflage pants, and tennis shoes with no socks.” Photos of the intruder, taken from security cameras, were posted in all residential dorms soon after.
Anna Horldt, RA on the fifth floor of Austin Hall, said Hidlebaugh entered McKay Hall around 5 p.m. Security footage shows that at approximately 6:30 p.m. he was roaming the fifth floor of Austin. At 6:50 p.m. he was on the sixth floor and was caught by the sleeping girl who reported him to campus safety. He then fled the scene and went to the Barrymore Hotel.
“He has to have an in with someone at UT because how else would he know that the Barrymore was a part of our campus?” Horldt said.
Emily Straley, freshman elementary education major and resident at the Barrymore Hotel, went for a run with her roommate. Straley got back to their room five minutes before the roommate, and decided to take a shower. Because her roommate didn’t take a key with her, Straley left the door unlocked as she showered
“I know I shouldn’t have left my room door [unlatched] but I did anyways because I knew she’d be up in a few minutes,” Straley said. “I jumped in the shower and when they were back, my friend was like ‘Dude there was just a guy in your room.’ She told me she saw him walk out of my room towards the elevator grinning and that he said ‘Oh shit, the stairs are this way.’ When he turned towards the stairs, which is near my room, my friend said, ‘Wait, why were you in this room?’ He said he was in the laundry room, laughed and then ran down the stairs. I immediately called campus safety and soon after the email went out.”
On Sunday, Oct. 25, at 4 p.m., Hidlebaugh allegedly approached a female student on Cass Bridge, according to the second global email. The victim was able to leave the scene and was physically unharmed.
In light of the occurrences, all RAs have been conducting mandatory floor meetings this week to discuss the incidents and to provide security tips to students. RAs in Austin Hall are doing door checks to make sure residents are locking their doors behind them, because Austin is one of the few residence buildings that does not have automatic locks.
“I can’t sleep at night because I’m constantly worrying about my residents’ and my own safety,” Horldt said. “Now, I start locking my door at night. My door was always unlocked so who knows if he came in my room.”
Morsani Hall roommates Aja Finocchiaro and Brittney Kleiman not only keep their front door unlocked, but they use a decorated brick to hold the door open, allowing anyone a view of the inside of their room and access to enter.
“I know that anyone can get in but I still don’t feel unsafe,” Finocchiaro said. “I like the idea that people I know can just walk into my room without me having to constantly open the door. I don’t think about random intruders.”
However, Kleiman has a different point-of-view.
“Downstairs anyone can get in as long as they follow someone,” Kleiman said. “There’s only two checkpoints they need to get past. If you keep your door shut it’s better because someone can’t just walk-in. I would say, in that regard, I feel safe but because we keep our door open all the time I don’t feel as safe as I did before the intruder.”
Linda Devine, Vice President for Operations and Planning, said campus safety worked with Tampa Police Department to help in the investigation. Most of the important information has come from students who are calling in or talking with officers about the suspect.
“We are encouraged by this as it demonstrates that our campus community is assisting with making UT a safer place,” said Devine.
Devine also says that it is important that students don’t permit unauthorized people into residential areas.
“This is expected,” said junior entrepreneur major Scott Frye. “You can’t have 100 percent safety. If the knobs would have locked it would have prevented everything but I don’t think it’s the end of the world. It’s something expected in a campus the size as this. I think campus safety is doing their job just fine. They’re not expected to be everywhere at all times. I think they responded pretty well so I think they’re doing perfect.”
All students are encouraged to contact campus safety if they ever see anything suspicious. Campus safety can be reached at 813-257-7777 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.