Four individuals involved in the Feb. 7 attempted burglary of Francis resident Dennis Reif, during which one suspect was shot twice by the homeowner, face up to life in prison as alleged co-conspirators acting in concert in the commission of multiple felonies.
Documents filed Feb. 23 in Pontotoc County District Court by Assistant District Attorney Jim Tillison charge all four suspects with “acting in concert” in the commission of burglary in the first degree, shooting with intent to kill, conspiracy to commit a felony and possession of a stolen vehicle.
The charges against Christopher Allen Born, 37, of Ada; Dustin Adam Hoots, 30, of Tupelo; Jeanette Ann Matthews, 24, of Ada; and Tara Rene Whittecar, 25, of Byng, carry sentences ranging from a year to life in prison, if convicted.
Born and Hoots face additional, individual charges of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm after a former felony conviction, respectively, and both are also charged with unlawful use of a police radio.
Born, Matthews and Whittecar will next appear in Judge Gregory Pollard’s court March 21. Hoots will appear in Pollard’s court March 29.
The night in question
Affidavits on file in Pontotoc County District Court indicate Francis resident Dennis Reif was awoken by the sound of breaking glass in his home in the 21900 block of County Road 1475 shortly before 2:46 a.m. Feb. 7. Records indicate Reif told dispatchers and sheriff’s deputies he had confronted two men inside his home, one of whom opened fire on him. Reif said he returned fire, striking one of the men at least twice in the chest or abdomen. He said the men then fled his home in a white pickup traveling westbound on County Road 1475 toward Francis.
Sheriff’s Department records indicate deputies coordinated an effort to locate the men, with Ada and Lighthorse police officers arriving to help. In the course of the search, two white pickups were found in the area. Ada police officers successfully stopped one truck, but the second fled when officers approached, leading deputies and police officers on a brief, high-speed pursuit until the truck crashed through a fence and large shrubs by a private drive near County Roads 3532 and 1505. The driver of the truck fled, evading capture.
Ada police officers identified Dustin Hoots as the driver of the crashed truck, which subsequent investigation revealed to have been reported stolen last month. Police found Born lying in the back of the truck, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds. Born was transported by Mercy EMS to Mercy Hospital Ada.
Hoots was found and arrested later that same day at a residence north of Ada on County Road 1510. Whittecar and Matthews were also arrested in connection with the break-in.
Records indicate Whittecar and Matthews had “case-relevant” knowledge known only by the victim, law enforcement and the suspects.
'Get a gun, and learn how to use it'
When Francis resident Dennis Reif was awoken to the sound of breaking glass in his home during the early morning hours Feb. 7, the former Marine picked up the 38-caliber revolver he keeps on his nightstand at night and went to investigate.
What Reif found, police said, was 37-year-old Christopher Born rummaging through Reif’s home, having just broken through the man’s kitchen window. Born, one-half of a duo police allege tried to burglarize Reif’s home, opened fire on the man. Reif raised his gun and returned fire.
“One guy was in the house,” Reif said. “The other guy was outside trying to break into my travel trailer.”
“The other guy,” 30-year-old Dustin Hoots, was Born’s accomplice, according to affidavits filed by Pontotoc County Sheriff’s deputies in District Court.
“I shot (Born) twice in the chest is what (deputies) told me,” Reif said. “I don’t know if he’s still alive or not.”
Reif wasn’t injured in the exchange of gunfire, and Born allegedly fled the scene.
“With the experience I have around firearms, which has been all my life, I recommend people get a gun. But, take lessons and learn how to use it,” Reif said. “It’s more of a danger if you don’t know how to use it.”
Reif said he does not think of himself as courageous or heroic, but he does hope his actions — defending himself with his gun and calling Sheriff’s deputies right away — will help prevent someone else from being victimized.
Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian said he does not intend to recommend charges of any kind against Reif.
“I absolutely believe people have a right to defend themselves,” Christian said. “And in a situation like this, where you’ve got a guy in your own home and he’s shooting at you — absolutely, he had every right to defend himself.”