Returning home, the day after a deadly burglary attempt

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Powell, Knox County (WVLT) – On Sunday, members of a Powell family spent their first night back home after a deadly burglary attempt just the day before.

They say their once safe and happy home was changed forever over the weekend.

At just after noon on Saturday, the Knox County Sheriff's Office says Tilvis Coffey, 42 of Knoxville, broke into the Sakhleh's home on E. Copeland.

Home alone at the time was Matthew Sakhleh, 13 who hid in a bathroom close.

"I didn't know if he was coming in or not,” Matthew said, “that's pretty scary."

The door was locked and Coffey allegedly kicked in the home’s front door.

"It took a couple of tries for him to knock it down,” Matthew said, “but then I heard this big thud when it swung open.”

And then he heard silence, followed by a loud ruckus from every room being ransacked.

"There was just a lot of stuff falling off and stuff getting tipped over,” he said.

What he barely heard was the sound of a gun shot.

Outside, the Sheriff’s Office says Matthew’s grandfather, Harry Smith, had shot Coffey once in the head.

"That's probably the hardest thing my father has ever had to do,” said Sherry Sakhleh, Matthews mother and Smith’s daughter. “I don't know if he'll ever recover from it."

What happened was that Matthew had called his mother from inside the closet, just 15 minutes after she left to run errands.

She was understandably worried for her child, so she called her own father who lived nearby.

"I would do it again because he was the first one here and he got to him before he got to my son," Sherry said.

Meanwhile, the broken door was supposed to be fixed by Sunday evening, but repairing the Sakhleh’s broken sense of safety won't be such a quick fix.

"It doesn't feel safe anymore,” she said. “Home is supposed to be your safe place and it's not anymore."

According to the Knox County Sheriff's Office, Smith does have a gun permit, but there is still no word if he will face charges.

His family said he is still too shaken-up to talk about the incident

As for Matthew, the sheriff’s office says he did exactly the right thing by hiding and calling 9-1-1.

His mother is very proud and thankful that he was unharmed.

"I know God was watching over us because my son's still here.”

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