Still in shock, Patrice Lennon was whipping around her northern Durham house, cleaning a mess with hopeful eyes. A leather living room set had been slashed. An aquarium, sans fish, had been smashed with a wrench, spilling gallons of water onto the carpet.
Less than 24 hours earlier, her ex-boyfriend had been arrested for breaking into her house and taking her father hostage for eight hours. But she was "just happy," she said.
"Happily ever after -- that's all we can say," Lennon said Wednesday. Her father was safe with her, and the man police say was responsible was behind bars, being held in lieu of $200,000 bail.
The ordeal at 1915 Stadium Drive started about 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. Police say Stevie Floyd Gardner, 38, broke into the home and put a knife to the throat of Fred Lennon, 62. Gardner had dated Patrice Lennon for five years, and the two had a child together, little Stevie, before breaking up recently, family members said.
When the breakup began, so did the trouble.
After Christmas, Gardner was charged with making harassing phone calls, according to court records. Patrice Lennon changed the locks on her house and told Gardner to stop calling, family members said. But he kept trying to contact her and was wanted for assaulting her and making harassing phone calls again last week.
Family members think that Gardner, familiar with his former girlfriend's schedule, was waiting for Patrice Lennon to return after driving her father's nursing aide home. Her father had been living with her after suffering a stroke and other health setbacks.
While Patrice Lennon was on the errand, a watchful neighbor saw a man lurking in the Lennons' back yard and recognized him as a man Lennon had told him to beware of. The neighbor called police but not before the man broke into Lennon's home and took Fred Lennon hostage, police say.
Patrice Lennon returned to a standoff scene, in which police said Gardner was inside holding her dad at knifepoint.
Police tried for hours to coax Gardner from the house, but he wasn't moving. The situation grew tense as Fred Lennon, a diabetic, went without dinner and his blood sugar started to fall, family members said Wednesday.
But Fred Lennon always drew comfort from a crackling fire in the fireplace, and that, it turns out, ultimately helped police capture Gardner.
Just before 11:30 p.m., when the firewood was running low and Gardner opened the home's back door to gather more, police took Gardner to the ground.
Fred Lennon was taken to the hospital, but he didn't suffer any injuries after enduring the standoff, police said.
"I was just so relieved," Patrice Lennon said. "I just kissed him all over his face. I wanted to feel every part of him and know he was OK."
Gardner appeared before a judge Wednesday morning on charges of felony assault on a handicapped person and first-degree kidnapping. He is scheduled to appear in court again March 6.
(Staff writer Benjamin Niolet contributed to this report.)
Staff writer Samiha Khanna can be reached at 956-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.