Violent Felons Going Into Homes As Service Workers | KEYE TV
Your safety and the safety of your family could be at stake when you hire a service worker to come to your home. It’s critical to know who’s knocking at your door.
In December, choir director Kathy Blair was murdered inside her northwest Austin home. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says one of the men linked to her death did landscaping work at the house months earlier.
“Be careful when you hire that stranger,” said Chief Acevedo. “When you’re inviting people into your home you have to make sure it’s not somebody that’s going to come back and hurt you.”
But that’s exactly what happened to Lucia Bone’s sister, Sue Weaver.
“It’s extremely devastating,” said Bone.”It’s something you don’t ever get over.”
The brutal story of Weaver’s murder is now being used to help raise awareness. Bone created the Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E., a non-profit organization that promotes Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment. She’s now pushing for national laws requiring background checks on all service workers who go out to customers’ homes.
“Sue hired a reputable department store to clean her air ducts,” said Bone. “Sue trusted the company she hired to send safe workers.”
Bone says that trust was misplaced.
“One was a twice convicted sex offender on parole and the other was his supervisor, who had done time for breaking and entering. So it was a single woman home alone with two convicted felons,” said Bone. “One of them returned six months later and he tied Sue up, he raped her, he beat her to death and he set her body and her home on fire.”
Bone thinks her sister would still be alive if the company had done criminal background checks.
“What happened to Sue could and should have been prevented,” said Bone. “Convicted felons do deserve a second chance, but, depending on their crime, they may not be suitable to be in our homes.”
Background screening expert Fred Giles says the CAUSE Certification follows best practice screening guidelines and offers a means of hiring safer workers.
“It’s a comprehensive criminal search,” said Giles.
But he thinks too many businesses, especially small businesses, don’t realize how much they don’t know about their employees.
“Well, if I talk to you and I get a sense of who you are then I should feel comfortable hiring you,” said Giles. “They have a belief that they’re able to judge the individual in an interview. They don’t understand the importance of doing the background check.”
Until federal laws change Lucia says if a service worker is coming to your house, make some coffee.
“Don’t be home alone. Invite a friend over for coffee,” said Bone. “It’s a lot harder to get in trouble with someone else there than it is just a single person home alone.”
But if you are home alone when a service worker knocks on the door, here are simple steps you can take to keep yourself safe.
Be on the phone when you open the door.
Ask for identification.
Tell the person you’re talking to on the phone the worker’s name and promise to call back in an hour.
Direct, don’t lead.
Always walk behind the service worker.
Have an exit plan.
Don’t let your pets or your children give you a false sense of security. “Children are not protection,” said Bone. “They might do something harmful to the children to get you to do what they want you to do.”
Of course, most service workers are perfectly safe. But unless you know their background, don’t assume you will be.
Here are the three critical questions you should ask before you hire a service company. Do you perform criminal background checks on employees, contractors and subcontractors? How often to you perform the checks? What crimes disqualify a person from being able to go out to a customer’s home? If you don’t like the answers, shop around.
By Bettie Cross