Winnipeg woman gives eggnog and gingersnaps to burglar

A Winnipeg woman gave a burglar eggnog and gingersnaps after the young burglar came back to her home because she forgot her cellphone and keys.

The 17-year-old who looted her home has a new friendship with the homeowner she burgled

Leah Ross gave a burglar eggnog and gingersnaps when the burglar, a 17-year-old girl, came back because she forgot her phone and keys in the house she just robbed. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Call it an unexpected bond.

A burglar and her victim are now friends after a December home invasion in Winnipeg's East Kildonan neighbourhood. Leah Ross remembers the day she came home and found her place had been broken into as if it happened yesterday.

On that cold winter day, her back door was swinging wide open, her belongings from her basement were scattered in her upstairs kitchen and an old jacket she owned was outside in the snow.

Ross panicked, called her neighbours, the church across the street and 911.

"I was freaking out. My heart rate like soared and my Fitbit had tracked it so I later saw … that my heart rate went up to like 158 and I was terrified."

A Winnipeg woman who came face to face with the person who'd just broken into her East Kildonan house is getting a lot of attention. But it's not the frightening burglary that has people talking — it's how the woman responded to the situation. 2:35
She would soon become even more scared when a young woman showed up at her backdoor; it was the burglar, who was wearing Ross's jacket, sweater and watch. The first thing she did was take a picture of her and ask "Are you going to hurt me?" 

Ross asked her if there was someone else in her home and the burglar said "no." She explained she had broken in through Ross's basement window and now come back because she forgot her phone and keys inside.

The burglar, a 17-year-old girl, said she was sorry and the two leaned in for a hug and then Ross invited her to sit down at her kitchen table.

A look at Leah Ross's heart rate on her Fitbit shows the spike that happened when she discovered the break-in at her home. (Submitted by Leah Ross)
She didn't have any food in the house so she gave the young woman what she did have left — eggnog and gingersnaps.

Then her doorbell rang when the pastor from across the street arrived.

"I said, 'Pastor Kim the burglar is in the kitchen' and she was like 'what?'"

"I was afraid because I didn't know that the burglar was a young woman," Pastor Kim Stoesz said about the encounter.

But when Stoesz went into the kitchen she realized there was more to the break-in.

"I could see that it was just a sad situation," she said.

Winnipeg police arrived sometime shortly after which put Ross, who lives alone, at ease.

"They went through the house and they cleared it for me which was nice," she said adding she was still a bit worried someone else might be lurking in her home.

A police detective asked if Ross wanted to press charges and she said "no." The former lawyer said that wouldn't be in the child's best interest and that's what had to prevail.

"The officer said in all her years ... she had never walked in on a victim ... serving their intruder like eggnog and gingersnaps," Ross said.

Girl's parents send card 

The girl who broke into Ross's home is in foster care and cannot be named. Her biological parents placed her in care after she got caught up in drugs, Ross said.

The girl's parents found out about the break-in and sent Ross an unexpected Christmas card wishing her the best and asking if she would call them. Ross, who is a part-time teacher at Balmoral Hall, did.

Ross and the girl, a youth in care, now chat over text. The two have formed a special bond since the December robbery. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)
She still keeps in touch with the teen who broke into her home, and the two regularly text one another to see how things are going.

Ross even bought the girl new makeup for Christmas, joking that she thought that would be better than the used makeup the burglar stole from her home.

Ross said she is sharing her story now in part to demonstrate that sometimes showing compassion to strangers can lead to surprisingly positive outcomes.
A burglar and her victim are now friends after a December home invasion in Winnipeg's East Kildonan neighbourhood. Leah Ross remembers the day she came home and found her place had been broken into as if it happened yesterday. 0:54

About the Author

Austin Grabish

Reporter

Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. Before joining CBC, he reported for several outlets with work running across the country. He studied human rights in university and holds a degree and diploma in communications. Connect with him here: austin.grabish@cbc.ca