Crime

Two Modesto women chase down burglary suspect

DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com - Modesto police officers, David Mullins, left, and J.P. Walsh, take a woman suspect into custody after she was chased by good samaritans after being spotted taking items from a house on Hackberry Ave., in Modesto, Calif., on Friday, October 7, 2011.  Sara Hannah and her sister, Ashley Hannah Bianchini, chased a female burglary suspect from a neighbor's house until the woman was caught by police.
DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com - Modesto police officers, David Mullins, left, and J.P. Walsh, take a woman suspect into custody after she was chased by good samaritans after being spotted taking items from a house on Hackberry Ave., in Modesto, Calif., on Friday, October 7, 2011. Sara Hannah and her sister, Ashley Hannah Bianchini, chased a female burglary suspect from a neighbor's house until the woman was caught by police.

Being a good neighbor usually means saying "hi" in the driveway or inviting each other to summer barbecues.

Rarely does it mean chasing a burglary suspect down the street and cornering her until the cops arrive. But that's what Modesto sisters Ashley Hannah Bianchini, 25, and Sara Hannah, 22, did for their Graceada Park-area neighbors Friday afternoon.

The Modesto natives grew up on Hackberry Avenue and were both at their parents' home Friday afternoon when they saw the 11-year-old girl who lives next door crying.

Bianchini, who works at a local jewelry store and had taken the day off to celebrate her one-year wedding anniversary, asked why the girl was crying. She said she had come home from school to find her back door open and heard someone inside.

So Bianchini, her sister and their mother called 911 and then all went to the back of their neighbor's house to find a woman leaving carrying two guitars and a suitcase filled with things.

"We told her to drop the stuff, 'That's not yours,' " Bianchini said.

To their surprise, the woman dropped the stuff. Bianchini said she apologized, asked them to let her go and promised to not come back — but then took off running down the alley.

Then to her own surprise, Bianchini took off after her.

Hannah went to her car and followed the foot pursuit. Their mother stayed with the girl at the house.

"I didn't even think about it. I just chased her," Bianchini said. "Living in this neighborhood, my mom and sister living here, we want to keep this neighborhood nice."

The sisters have lived on the block for 18 years. Bianchini recently moved, but just across the street.

The sisters followed the suspect — one on foot, the other in the car — almost five blocks to Enslen Park. She stopped in the baseball diamond.

Without touching her or getting physical, Bianchini said she ordered the suspect to get down and wait for police. They arrived almost immediately after, speeding onto the grass and arresting the woman at the site.

"Honestly, I was surprised she listened," Bianchini said. "I was like, 'Wow, that really works.' And then the cops came flying up perfectly, like out of a movie."

Hannah, who just graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in neurobiology, was on the line with the police during the chase, which lasted about 15 minutes.

"My sister is a lot braver than me. She was determined to not let her get away," Hannah said. "She's an older sister so she can be pretty bossy and protective. She was being very stern with her."

Bianchini said the woman's demeanor wasn't violent and she didn't appear armed.

"I wasn't trying to be stupid. She wasn't threatening and it was broad daylight," she said. "My instinct was, 'Oh no you don't.' "

While there were other bystanders in the area, Bianchini said, none helped before police arrived.

Police Sgt. David Chamberlain said the suspect, 38-year-old Jody Veuve, was arrested and booked on burglary charges.

"It's not common that we end up in this type of situation," he said. "But some people are becoming more involved and willing to provide information to help so we can arrest people and make our community safer."

Bianchini said she wasn't trying to be a hero, just trying to be a good neighbor. Still, she said she is proud of what she and her sister did.

"I just did what I felt was right. I would want someone to do that for me," she said. "We just want to have a nice neighborhood where everyone looks out for everyone."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284.

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