DETROIT (WXYZ) - Detroit Police are searching for the thieves who barged into a house full of children, beat a 16-year-old with a baseball bat, then shot and killed a grandfather.
“He jumped in front of a bullet for his 12-year-old granddaughter,” said Melissa Villneff, the daughter of the man killed.
She and her brother Michael Villneff describe their father as a hero. They say 62-year-old John Villneff was a Vietnam Veteran who received two Purple Hearts. He had one son, two daughters, and 12 grandchildren.
He lived next door to his daughter’s house on Rutland on the city’s west side. His adult children were out enjoying a Tigers game. His grandchildren, who are between the ages of 10 and 16 were at home together Wednesday night when young men with guns and a bat came to their home.
Relatives say the young men attacked the 16-year-old, hitting him in the head with a baseball bat. They demanded what was inside a safe at the home. They soon learned the safe contained almost nothing of value, but Melissa felt as though that was a decoy. She believes they were really after her shotgun. She says they forced the teen to produce the gun, and when he couldn't, they beat him. They then stole a Wii and an Xbox.
A 12-year-old girl at the home managed to take pictures of the suspects as they committed their crime. She then ran from the home towards her grandfather’s home next door. He came out to see what was wrong. The war veteran saw armed men coming for her, covered her, and pushed her into the safety of his home as he was shot.
He died at his home.
“I didn’t get to tell him I love him,” said Michael Villneff. “He is a hero.”
In the meantime, John Villneff’s 16-year-old grandson is in the hospital. Doctors say Terrance Villneff suffered a broken jaw and head trauma. The soon to be senior at Robechaud High School is in stable condition. He received five stitches, and his jaw was wired shut.
Family members say they know at least two of the young men involved in the robbery and murder. "They've been to my house. They ate my food. They showered in my shower," said Melissa.
They now hope police can lock them away where they can’t hurt anyone else.
Detroit police are reviewing the images captured by the teenage granddaughter, but are not releasing them to the public at this time.
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