How a Hamilton man saved his wife, child from a violent intruder
'What if he killed me? I got a two-month-old daughter'
Dave Rodda spent his first Father's Day with his wife Lissa, their parents and his two-month-old daughter Alexis. She's got his blue eyes.
But with his entire arm wrapped in a cast, he was unable to change her diapers or even pick her up when she cried.
Rodda fought for his life in his home when a young man broke in earlier this month. The Mountain resident suffered injuries from head to toe: a mild concussion, a bruised nose, an injured right shoulder and cuts to the knees. The gashes on his tricep were so bad they needed 50 stitches.
“He comes in and he severely hurts me. I can't work and he's damaged our house,” he told CBC Hamilton on Monday. “I keep thinking, 'What if he killed me?' I got a two-month-old daughter.”
An 18-year-old man has been charged with assault and breaking and entering, but Rodda said the incident highlights the reduced police presence in his neighbourhood and he wants a change.
“The police do a good job, but their resources are really limited,” he said. “It seems like there's a real push to have a lot of police downtown, which has removed police patrol from [my] area.”
Woken up to the sound of a man in his home, screaming
On June 7 shortly before 3 a.m., Rodda was woken up by a man's screams at his home near Upper Wentworth Street and Fennell Avenue.
A young man, who Rodda described as in a drug-induced delirium, broke into his house through the window and started viciously attacking him.
“He's screaming gibberish.... It seemed like he was trying to kill me,” he recalled. “All of sudden, he just stopped. And he just went back to attacking me again. He's just completely out of his mind.”
Although the intruder was smaller and shorter than him, Rodda said the struggle was difficult for him, a 200-pound, hockey-playing man who is comfortable with lifting heavy materials at his job as a contractor.
“He just threw me like I was nothing. It was just a superhuman strength he had,” he recalled. “I've never seen anything like that ... just throwing me around like a rag doll.”
Eventually, he fought the intruder out of his home, something he attributed to adrenaline.
“All I could think about was Alexis and Lissa. He wasn't getting past me. The way he was...it would've been bad if he got to Alexis and Lissa.”
Meanwhile, Lissa locked herself in the bathroom upstairs and called 911, while the toddler was sleeping in another room.
“I was just thinking, 'Please don't wake up. Please don't cry.' If [the intruder] hears a baby in that state, I don't know what he's going to do.”
When Rodda came to the bathroom, he caught his reflection in the mirror — bleeding and beaten, with the skin on his arm folded, revealing the muscles — before he collapsed in Lissa's arms.
Changes in neighbourhood
The couple, in their 30s, have witnessed a series of crimes in their neighbourhood since they moved there nine years ago.
Four years ago, their car was stolen from their driveway. Two years ago, someone slashed the tires of all the cars on the block.
Rodda said his experience was also eerily similar to a series of bizarre break-ins that happened last summer, just blocks away from his home.
A 23-year-old man dove head-first through three residential windows in June 2013, leaving a trail of blood between these homes near Mohawk Road and Upper Sherman Avenue.
The man was blurting out words and sifting through the residents' belongings aimlessly, according to witnesses. He later died in hospital.
Rodda said, by sharing his story, he wants to shed light on drug abuse, but also bring more police to his neighbourhood. While there appears to be more crime, police patrol has been reduced, Rodda said.
“Crime just goes where there's no police,” he said. “There are stats showing crime is reduced in downtown. How does that affect the rest of us?”
Scott Duvall, a Mountain councillor for Ward 7, has been in touch with Rodda after the break in. He said Rodda's concerns are echoed by some residents.
“People have said to me they don't see enough visibility of police officers,” he told CBC Hamilton.
He will discuss whether there is increasing crime in the Mountain area with the police chief during board meetings, he said.
“We want to make sure we are getting our fair share of police protection up on the Mountain.”
Hamilton police, in response to Rodda's concerns, said police resources are strategically deployed throughout the entire city.
“As well we have significant Crime Prevention Initiatives that are highlighted throughout the year,” said Const. Debbie McGreal-Dinning, media relations officer.
She added that residents who have concerns about police response can contact their division's crime manager.
A week after the break-in on a balmy day, the couple took Alexis out for some sun in their backyard. Rodda played with Alexis's chubby cheek with his left arm, his right arm in full cast.
It will be at least another three months before he can start lifting things, he was told.
The grass was slightly overgrown. The renovation project at their home was put on hold, while tools were left in a corner in a clutter.
“Everything is slower now,” Lissa said. "We've got one and half of us."
They have toyed with the idea of moving, but with Rodda's recovery still uncertain, that idea is also on hold.
"Right now is not the time for a picture-perfect house," she said. "We are just trying to live day to day."
The couple has been contemplating how to tell Alexis about the eventful night when she grows up.
His version: “I'll probably leave out some of the gory details.”
Her version: “Daddy saved us and you slept through it.”