Man accused of trying to force way into Whidbey home

The suspect told police he was looking for his supposed girlfriend, the actress Jennifer Aniston.

By Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

A North Whidbey woman was terrified when a stranger tried to push his way into her home as she struggled to hold the door closed while calling police for help, according to a report by a deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect in the June 13 case, 34-year-old Darren E. Hartman of North Whidbey, told a deputy that he was looking for his supposed girlfriend, actress Jennifer Aniston, whom he thought was inside the house.

Hartman appeared in Island County Superior Court Monday. Judge Carolyn Cliff found there was probable cause to believe that he had committed the crime of attempted burglary.

Deputy Prosecutor Michael Safstrom told the judge he discovered that Hartman had tried to force his way into other occupied homes — holding an axe on one occasion — two months ago in Snohomish County.

The deputy prosecutor said the frightening incident had “a huge impact” on the Whidbey Island victim.

Safstrom asked the judge to set Hartman’s bail at $15,000 and to require that he obtain a mental health evaluation prior to being released from jail. Cliff agreed.

A deputy’s report on the incident states that at around 7 a.m. on June 13, a Riepma Avenue resident woke up to find Hartman in her backyard, looking in her living room window, a deputy’s report states.

She watched as Hartman walked around to her front door, which he tried to open. The woman used her body weight to keep the door closed as Hartman aggressively tried to push his way in, the report states.

The woman told the deputy that it was the most scared she’s ever been.

The deputy immediately found Hartman next to the house. When questioned, Hartman said his girlfriend, whom he identified as the “Friends” actress, lived at the house.

On April 9, a deputy with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office investigated three reports of a strange man, later identified as Hartman, trying to break into homes in a rural neighborhood at around 1 a.m.

In one case, a resident was awakened to the sound of Hartman trying to kick the front door down while yelling, “It’s Justin, you know me,” the deputy’s report states.

In a second case, a resident found Hartman brandishing an axe at the front door. Hartman told him he was looking for the key, the report says.

In a third case, a resident reported that Hartman allegedly rang her doorbell and then tried to open the door.

After he was arrested in Snohomish County, Hartman told a deputy that Jennifer Aniston lived in the three houses and she told him to either open the front door or window.

In court Monday, Safstrom said Hartman was originally arrested on suspicion of committing attempted burglaries in Snohomish County, but the charges were later refiled as misdemeanor trespassing charges.

Aniston could not be reached for comment.

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.

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