Written by Molly Grantham
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Willie Rice is a convicted felon in state maximum security prison for life, plus 70 years. By his own account, he broke into and robbed "hundreds" of homes in Mecklenburg County. He says he was on drugs at the time.
Rice is now a changed man. He says he knows he was wrong. To prove it, he sat down with Anchor Molly Grantham to give all the tricks of the trade. He says if he can help even one person protect themselves and their families, he'll be glad he talked.
You can see the story which aired Wednesday at 11pm by clicking the red camcorder on the right.
If you'd like to hear an extended version of our interview with Rice, click WEB EXTRA: Convicted burglar tells how to protect your home. The transcript of our interview is below.
"(Molly) What did you do to get here? (Willie) Murder. Rape. Um, burglary. Car theft. Uh, multiple burglaries. By which was induced by drugs and alcohol. That's what I done. (Molly) I'm told you're a very different man now than you were when you came in. Why is that? (Willie) Part of it is the fact that you realize what you did was wrong. And I truly believe that not one person can walk out of these gates and be successful in their life without realizing what they did in their life was wrong. (Molly) What is it that's keeping you from doing it again? You're leaving with the same frame of mind you had when you came in. You haven't progressed. (Molly) If you were able to walk out of these gates do you think you'd commit any of these crimes again? Any of them. (Willie) No. (Molly) How can you be sure? (Willie) I've cried for years. I've cried for years at night in my cell. Not just for the family, for the victim for the family of the victim, for my, for what it is I did for my own family. Not to be there for my children to see them. For my mother when she passed away. For not being able to attend her funeral. For what it is I did to myself. To cut myself off from the outside world. I couldn't see myself ever taking that chance ever again. To possibly rebuild my life to have people that close to me that would love me, or to hurt someone else's family again, in such a way."
"(Molly) You said you became a master of burglaries. (Willie) Yes, Yes I was. It came to the point where you start to go to break into something you're actually fearless. You do it to the point like you go to the grocery store to pick up a carton of milk."
"(Molly) If you had to try and put a number on how many homes and businesses you broke into, what would you say? (WIllie) (big pause) In the hundreds. (Molly) Would it be fair for me to say you were a professional burglar at one point in your life? (Willie) At one point in the time in my life, yes. (Molly) How often did you get caught? (Willie) There was a small list. After each time you get caught it educates you more on what to do and what you shouldn't do. That's one of these things that I'm really skeptical about this interview. I was really educated by what I saw on television."
"(Willie) Quickest way for me to get into a home is to just come up, smash the door in. One bump. (Molly) Doesn't that make a lot of noise, wouldn't neighbors hear it? (Willie) But the thing is about that one bump, it happens so quick, that, you know what I'm saying, you hear it and then you don't. And it comes to the point where even your neighbors themselves -- and this comes into point of not knowing your neighbors, really. To the points in time when they're home, when they're not home -- to say that you heard something coming from their direction, but it happened so quick that it was just bumping so quick, nothing else, that you paid it no mind. (Molly) SO you would break in the quickest, fastest way by bumping in the door. (Willie) Yes, that's the quickest way. (Molly) What about all the locks people get for their doors? (Willie) Dead-bolt locks without a steel rod behind it is just like a piece of sheet rock. (Molly) How do you cut through it? (Willie) You don't. What I'm saying is a deadbolt lock without a steel rod coming down the frame to hold the door itself, is... take a piece of plywood, step on it. Break it. Push it. It's nothing. (Molly) You can basically just pound right through that? (Willie) Yeah, it isn't protection. (Molly) So the best kind of door to get is? (Willie) The best kind of door to get is, one that has that... you would have it built into the frame of your door. Literally built in together. (Molly) Steel rods... (Willie) Yeah, steel rods coming down with the frame. You can find some that are very beautiful but some... when you go to touch them it doesn't matter what you do to them, it doesn't move. (Molly) So have you tried to break into a home with a steel rod and when it doesn't work say, 'Forget it, I'm walking away?' (Willie) No. (Molly) What was the next way you got in the house after the door was a good one? (Willie) I would try the back. I would try some of the windows on the side, but after making that noise (he laughs) because I've probably had to, to, to put pressure on it more than once or twice and then people become conscious of what to say. If that was a deterrent than I would go around to the back, um, for once... is the backdoor built the same? You would have windows. One thing people aren't very conscious of is the second level windows should be locked. Because you take power grids that run up the wall from the power meter themselves. Even though there isn't a ladder or anything else around, it can still support the weight of a man. That's how good it is bolted into the wall. To the point you would grab on to that and you would grab that and you would push up on the window. If it was a balcony or if it was an apartment complex from the front door. Balconies, people never lock their balcony doors. Some people never think about it because they're high up in the air or you're two or three stories up, that a guy wouldn't actually go around to the side of the house, go to the side of the balcony, jump up to the first one, which is easy. Reach up, grab up, able to pull his body weight and pull up to the second one, and then go into that one. And if that one don't work then hey, i'm going to go up to the next one. And if he's athletic, in no time flat."
"(Willie) and I hate to say it like this but home security alarms, most of them are a joke. (Molly) Why? (WIllie) They're after. (Molly) You still have time to break in? (Willie) You still have time... they're after. (lots of pause.) The alarm goes off when I broke the door. You still have... how many minutes before... a minute or so before the alarm itself activates to call the security alert system people or office. Then time for them to alert the police. You know what I'm saying? I'm gone."
"(Molly) How many times did you break into a house where the alarm went off and you still stole stuff inside that home? (Willie) Too many to count. (:07, really good end here) (Molly) So they really don't dissuade you at all? (WIllie) No. (56:11, can end here) The one, from which there are very few (big pause) that would send me in a different direction, was the one that went off when you touch foot in the driveway. (:24) (Molly) I didn't even know there was one like that. (Willie) Yes. It's (laughs) there are several really that come to mind in several spots in Charlotte..."
"(Molly) When you break in, what are you looking for? What are you trying to take... (WIllie) You look for... Depends if you're riding or walking. If you're walking, you lookin' for DVD, VCR players, the games, jewelry, loose cash laying around. (Molly) How long do you take to look for those things? (Willie) Depends on the matter of which I got in. (Molly) Let's say it took you a minute to break into the house. (Willie) Let's say if I got in there quietly, I might take a few more minutes. If I got in there with a little noise. It would be quick. (Molly) How quick is quick? (Willie) How quick is quick? Within five to ten minutes, I'm gone. (Molly) How much can you steal in five to ten minutes? (Willie) Depends on if I'm riding or walking again. ANd how big my bag is. Uh. (Molly) But you can do some damage in five to ten minutes. (Willie) Yes. I can go through every room in the house."
"(Molly) You target the rich. (Willie) Yeah, but not to say just the rich, but the middle class. If you would. You have middle class, and you have poor. It don't have to be to the point to say just rich. Sometimes the... The richer they are... you know what I'm saying, it's not like you can go out to SouthPark with the really big huge homes and things of that nature, because sometimes their security is a little more sophisticated than what you would find coming out going to SouthPark then what you'd say if it's in SouthPark. You understand what I'm saying? Like if you're going out Park Road, you see you have nice complexes, and, uh, uh a few little small nice homes, but when you move on to Fairview and I can't remember... SouthPark, I can't remember I've been gone so long way... (Molly) Tyvola. Tyvola. (Willie) Yes. But anyway ...on out that way. But the homes get a lot nicer. And bigger. SO, you would get more, luring to hit before you get there."
"(Molly) So what you're saying is you don't want to target the super super rich because they're going to have security that is a lot more... (WIllie) ...a lot more sophisticated. (Molly) A lot more sophisticated. (:30) But you don't want to hit the poor becuase they don't have anything you want. (WIllie) Right. (Molly) So you're going to hit up the middle class that has some kind of security but is easy to break into. (Willie) Right. Exactly."
"(Molly) Please be candid with this answer. What's the time you were most scared breaking into a home? (Willie) I can't quite put my finger on what time it was becuase there had been a few times where i had to get on the move and get on the move quick... (Molly) But you were scared of being caught. (Willie) Yes. Not just... yes. I'm scared of being caught (Molly) Let's say you were breaking into my house and you walked in while you were robbing me. What would be somethign I could say or do that would make you drop the stuff, and run? (Willie) A good yell and to throw something. COurse if you've got a gun, shoot. Shoot first, ask questions later."