Tina McManus heard the Chihuahua and her two puppies barking a few minutes after 3 a.m. Thursday when she got up to use the bathroom at her house in the Rock Hill Homes neighborhood just off Cherry Road.
The house was dark. She stepped from her bedroom across the tiny living room to the hallway, past the dark kitchen, then to the bathroom.
When she came out of the bathroom, she felt a draft.
“It was cold, and it shouldn’t have been cold, and the dogs were barking,” McManus said. “I could feel the draft coming from the kitchen.”
She stuck her right arm into the kitchen to turn on the light. There stood an intruder, a stranger staring straight back at her.
“I just flicked on the light and there he was, right in front of me,” said McManus, 36. “We were face-to-face, nose-to-nose.”
McManus’ mind flashed to her three daughters – the oldest 18 and two in middle school – asleep in adjacent bedrooms.
“All I could think about was, ‘I am here alone with my three girls’ – and I was not going to let anything happen to them,” she said.
So McManus – all of 5 feet tall – did what a mother home alone with three kids who finds herself nose-to-nose with a stranger in her kitchen does.
“I screamed out,” McManus said. “I yelled, and I must have screamed so loud and was so nervous that I fell back and fell down.”
The shouts sent the interloper fleeing the few steps across the kitchen to the open back door of the house. The Chihuahua and the puppies gave chase after the guy, but he escaped into the backyard and was gone.
McManus’s oldest daughter, Kyla, 18, found her mother on the floor.
“She was screaming to call 911,” Kyla said. “I saw her on the floor, and I was worried that something had happened to her, that she was hurt or something worse.”
Kyla said her mother was “a hero,” acting quickly to call police and get help.
Officers responded in “two minutes, if that,” Tina McManus said. “They were here right away, and then they stayed around all night until it got light out. They were great.”
Officers searched the area, and a K-9 team arrived, but the man was not caught. Rock Hill detectives are investigating the case as a burglary.
When talking to police about what happened, McManus found that the back door leading from the kitchen was unlocked.
“I guess one of the kids let the dogs out at some point, and the door didn’t get locked back again,” McManus said. “We have stuff here. Tablets, phones – thankfully nothing was missing. I guess I got up at just the right time before anything was taken.”
The barking dogs might have been what kept the house from being cleaned out by the intruder, McManus said.
Later Thursday, McManus was still anxious about finding someone in her house in the middle of the night, staring straight at her from an inch away in the sudden burst of a kitchen light.
“It freaked me out,” she said. “It was just really scary waking up to a stranger in my house. I was thinking about my kids, that somebody might try and hurt my kids.
“But I will do anything to protect my kids.”