Roderick Ward told Channel 2 Action News that he had been gone 10 days. He knew something was amiss when he drove up to his house because the air conditioner was running – he had turned it off before he left – and the doors at the rear of the home were unlocked.
“I was saying, ‘Hello! Hello! Is anyone in here?’” he said.
In one bathroom, Ward saw someone had used his toiletries.
"They had brushed their teeth with the new toothbrush travel kit that I had and used dental floss and everything and combed their hair. The hair was right there," he said.
In another bathroom, he said he spotted a dog’s collar on a toilet seat, and “dog hair everywhere, so I was like, ‘Somebody done wash the dog in my house!’ I just couldn’t believe it."
And in the kitchen, he found birthday cake.
Ward called the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies came and took fingerprints off the box the cake had come in. They also inventoried missing items: Two cameras, and the homeowner’s spare keys.
But then Ward picked up one camera that had been left behind. He discovered in its memory photographs he hadn’t taken – of a couple of teenagers, and a child he said couldn’t be older than eight years old.
Sheriff's deputies figured out who the youngsters were and contacted their parents. Missing items were returned, and the parents came over to apologize.
Ward said he doesn’t plan to press charges against the young burglars. But he’s just glad he hadn’t come home late at night to discover intruders in his home.
"Anything could have went bad when somebody catches someone in your house,” he said.