Jury finds Niles man guilty of illegal entry after he forced himself into ex’s home

Published 5:40 pm Friday, April 1, 2022

CASSOPOLIS — A Niles man was found guilty of felony drunk driving and illegal entry into a residence in Cass County Court Thursday.

A jury found Jeffry Strauss, 49, of Niles, guilty of the crimes committed on Feb. 9, 2021. After his girlfriend told Strauss he was not permitted to come to her Milton Township residence, Strauss drove drunk to the woman’s home anyway.

Strauss’s girlfriend and her daughter each testified that after Strauss told his now ex-girlfriend that he was coming to the home anyway, the two women locked the doors and windows of the home and turned off all the lights. When Strauss arrived, he knocked, then “aggressively and repeatedly pounded on the doors and windows trying to get inside,” according to the prosecutor’s office.

When Strauss eventually found an unlocked garage door, the mother and daughter each locked themselves in separate rooms while the mother called the police.

“While inside the house, the defendant continued his violent barrage of pounding, this time on the door of the room where his girlfriend had secreted herself,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz in a press release.

Michigan State Police Troopers Aaron Adams and Jeffry Baublit responded to the scene and found Strauss inside the home. Strauss told police he drank three beers before driving to the home. Police transported Strauss to the hospital for a blood draw, and learned Strauss had a bodily alcohol content of .173, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

“Assistant Prosecutor Tom Hubbert tried the case and argued that at the time Strauss drove to his girlfriend’s residence, he was drunk with a bodily alcohol content more than twice the legal threshold of .08,” Fitz said.

Hubbert further argued that Strauss knew he did not have permission to go in the home, given he was told not to and the steps the girlfriend took to keep him out.

The jury deliberated approximately two hours before returning guilty verdicts on illegal entry and Drunk Driving third Offense.  The defendant had previously been convicted of drunk driving in 2003 and 2005.  At the closing of proofs and prior to the initiation of deliberations, Cass County Circuit Court Judge Mark Herman dismissed two other charges against Strauss — home invasion first degree and stalking.

“A past relationship is not a key to another person’s castle,” Fitz said. “Facts showed that this woman was quite intimidated and fearful due to this breaching of her home and the defendant’s forceful and violent actions.  If you go into a home where you are not allowed, you will be prosecuted.”

Fitz also praised the Michigan State Police for their diligence in investigating Strauss for drunk driving.

Strauss is scheduled for sentencing at 8:30 a.m. Friday, June 3. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a fine of $5,000.00. Judge Herman will preside.