Burglar dies after 68-year-old homeowner ties him to tree

By Peter Holley

Nathanial Johnson was held in custody for 72 hours after the burglar was found dead, but he has not been charged with any crime as yet. Photo / File
Nathanial Johnson was held in custody for 72 hours after the burglar was found dead, but he has not been charged with any crime as yet. Photo / File

Nathanial Johnson had grown tired of the burglaries at his mobile home in the small town of Leroy, Alabama, about 100 kilometres north of Mobile.

So the 68-year-old decided to take matters into his own hands on Friday night by springing a trap, Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer told Fox affiliate WALA.

In an attempt to make it look like nobody was home, Johnson parked his vehicle at a neighbour's home and returned to his abode and waited.

Sitting near his back door, Johnson told police, he turned the lights off and placed a car mirror near a window so he could see what was happening outside, according to WALA.

Johnson told authorities that someone knocked on his front door before midnight, Al.com reported. Johnson didn't answer and continued to wait as he heard the person move to the back door and break the lock.

Johnson told police that he confronted the person, prompting the suspected burglar to fall or jump off the back steps.

Johnson subdued the man once he was on the ground and tied his hands behind his back, police told Al.com. The man was later identified as 31-year-old Cleveland Jones Gully.

Police said that after restraining Gully's hands, Johnson placed duct tape over his mouth and tied the man to a tree using rudimentary materials - electrical wire, rope from a clothesline and masking tape.

"He began to tie him to the tree still in the standing up position," Stringer told WALA, noting that Johnson used "multiple layers of masking tape that he had wrapped around his mouth and all the way around his head."

With the alleged intruder tied to a tree, Johnson told police, he returned to his neighbour's house to alert police.

Gully "was still alive at that point, and there was no indication that he was dying," Stringer told Al.com.

But when sheriff's deputies arrived at Johnson's home 10 minutes later, Stringer said, Gully was dead.

"I don't think he was intending to kill the intruder," Stringer told WALA. "I think he wanted to capture him and have him arrested."

Stringer told AL.com that Gully - who lives nearby and had a reputation for breaking into homes - had cuts around his body from the wire used to tie him up but no other visible injuries. Johnson wasn't armed with a weapon at the time, Stringer said.

Johnson's niece, Simone Johnson, told WALA that Gully's death has left many people in pain.

"He doesn't bother anybody," she said, referring to her uncle. "He'll help you if you need helping, so the family just hates what happened. I know the other guy. His family is hurting too, but we are also and we hate that, and I hope that we can just get this resolved soon."

The alleged intruder's uncle, Michael Gully, told WALA that he was shocked by the allegations leveled against his relative.

"I was surprised that it happened," he said. "He just wasn't a violent person that I know of."

Stringer told WALA that Johnson isn't facing criminal charges while authorities await the results of an autopsy that will determine the cause of Gully's death.

Police did hold him in custody for 72 hours, the station reported.

"We will probably present it to the grand jury to see what they say about it," he added.

- Washington Post

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