Knoxville man discovers strangers sneaking into crawl space

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Imagine sitting at home, minding your own business when you hear a noise. You go to investigate and find a hole in the floor with an eye staring up at you.

Paul Mohlman didn’t have to watch a horror film to witness this exact situation in his home.

Molhman said he was sitting on his couch Tuesday morning in North Knoxville when he heard a weird noise coming from his roommate’s bedroom.

“It sounded like something fell. Something heavy,” Mohlman said.

When he went to check it out, Mohlman found a pipe laying on the floor and a hole in the floorboard next to it.

Trying to figure out what happened, Mohlman looked down the hole and, to his surprise, saw a green eye staring right back at him.

“It was a Caucasian dude. He wasn’t wearing a shirt; had no shoes on,” Mohlman said.

Mohlman said he tried asking the man why he was under there.

“What are you doing down there? Did the landlord call you? Are you hear to work on plumbing,” Mohlman asked.

Mohlman said the man mumbled something back and then started to move around slowly, as if he was trying to hide.

He called police and grabbed his .22-caliber rifle.

“I let him know that I have a gun. And I said ‘I don’t want to shoot you, but what are you doing,’ ” Mohlman said.

Once police arrived, it took them several minutes to coax the man to come out from under the crawl space.

Mohlman said the man claimed to have spilled acid on himself.

Finally, a man emerged from the crawl space, but it wasn’t who Mohlman expected. A black man emerged, wearing a shirt but no pants or shoes.

“At the moment, I sort of forgot about that part and was like, ‘Oh they got the guy. I saw it wrong. They got the guy,’ ” Mohlman said.

Molhman said clothes were sprung around outside near the crawl space door, along with two bottles of muriatic acid, also known as hyrdochloric acid; his watering hose; and insulation.

Thinking the horrific ordeal was over, Mohlman left his home to get a drink at a nearby bar. He was telling the bartender about what had just happened and showed him the picture he snapped of police detaining the black man.

The bartender reportedly told Mohlman that he saw the same man hanging around the bar the night before, but said there was also a white man with him.

The bartender went through surveillance video and found that the two were messing with random items on the outside of the bar.

Molhman said the men in the video looked like the men he saw under his house, including the white man he thought he had saw at first.

He called police again to say he thinks another man might still be underneath.

Molhman said police first saw the surveillance video before heading back to his house.

When they checked the crawl space again, it was empty.

Mohlman said later that night he discovered that the men cut wires controlling the heat, so he had to call for emergency repairs. Mohlman chose not to file charges believing they needed help, possibly medical attention, but not jail.

Knoxville Police said they detained the black man and transported him to UT Medical Center for his erratic and unstable behavior.

Police are not looking for the white man Molhman believes was also under his home.

Molhman said he learned a valuable lesson: Padlock your crawl space doors. His home is about 100 years old and it was just one of many on his street with crawl space doors that are easily accessible on the side of the house.

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