Naked man breaks into apartment

Students, police recount incident occurring one block off campus


Nicole Girgen

On Tuesday, April 26 a Winona man broke into an apartment building housing Winona State students. The man was later identified as Steven Edward Miller who now faces charges for first-degree burglary and indecent exposure

Erin Jones, Copy Editor

A Winona man is facing charges for first-degree burglary and indecent exposure after breaking into an apartment building housing Winona State University students on Tuesday, March 26.

According to police and tenants of the building, the man, who has been identified as Steven Edward Miller, broke into the building around 4 a.m., removed his clothing and set off the building’s fire alarms.

Miller proceeded to spray a fire extinguisher throughout the building and enter an apartment on the building’s top floor, while the room’s three tenants were inside.

One of those tenants, Dené Slaton, a senior psychology major at Winona State, said she heard the fire alarms, but also heard a male voice telling everyone they were safe and to go back to their rooms.

“I assumed it was our roommate’s boyfriend because our fire detectors are really touchy,” Slaton said. “If you’re cooking something and it’s really smoky, it’ll start to go off.”

She said she was not concerned about the alarms until they did not stop going off.

Slaton said it was when her roommate, Shelly, went to check outside their apartment that the break-in began.

“She went to go check in the hallway to see if there was a fire or something and he was standing at the top of stairs with a fire extinguisher,” Slaton said. “She attempted to close the door and he kind of pushed his way into our apartment.”

Slaton said after Miller gained entrance, Shelly went into her room and called the police.

Slaton added at the time of the break-in, she had been in her room and came out when the fire alarms did not stop.

“As I was opening up my door, this guy was trying to barrel into my room,” Slaton said. “I was like, ‘Oh gosh’ so I shoved him back and realized he is not clothed and does not belong in our home.”

Slaton said, instead of panicking, her and her other roommate, Grace Menchaca, a senior advertising major at Winona State, tried to get Miller out of their apartment.

Menchaca said she also woke to the fire alarms around 4 a.m. and thought nothing of it until Shelly knocked on her bedroom door and told her about Miller.

As she and Shelly were talking, Menchaca said Miller walked toward them and realized he was covered in soap and oil but focused on whether he had a weapon.

“The first thing I looked at were his hands to make sure he didn’t have anything, and he didn’t, thank God,” Menchaca said. “Then I was like, ‘Why are you here?’”

Menchaca and Slaton said they repeatedly told Miller to leave the apartment as he stumbled around trying to get into other rooms.

Neither said they were afraid of Miller because his demeanor was relaxed at the time.

“He was chill, like he was doing a house tour kind of. [Miller was] happy-go-lucky, it was very odd,” Menchaca said.

Slaton added despite Miller’s seemingly cheerful attitude, she, Menchaca and Shelly were concerned about the potential fire in the building.

“I peek out the door and I see smoke kind of coming up the stairs and it’s not a good view, so I’m like ‘We all need to get out of here now,’” Slaton said.

Photo contributed by Winona State University
Tenants Grace Menchaca and Dene Slaton were woken around 4 a.m. from the building’s fire alarms and went to investigate when the alarms were not turned off right away, Miller then forced his way into the apartment unclothed.

The women tried again to get Miller to leave the apartment. When he did not, they grabbed some of their personal belongings and left.

Menchaca and Slaton said once they exited the building and crossed the street, they informed police Miller was still in their apartment.

Sergeant Kevin Kearney of the Winona Police Department talked about what happened after tenants told police there was a man still inside the building.

“Once we got up there, officers found Steven Miller, the defendant, was inside,” Kearney said. “The door was barricaded. We actually had to break the door down to get into that apartment.”

Kearney said once officers gained entry, they found Miller laying on a bed in one of the rooms. Miller proceeded to shout at officers, telling them repeatedly to shoot him.

Miller then threatened officers and physically resisted them as they took him into custody.

“We brought him outside and loaded him into the ambulance and off he went to the hospital for evaluation,” Kearney said.

Kearney said at the time of the break-in, Winona police and the fire department determined there was no fire in the building and the “smoke” tenants saw was from the fire extinguisher Miller had been spraying.

Kearney added Miller later confessed to being on methamphetamines at the time of the break-in and was sent to jail later that morning.

Slaton and Menchaca said despite being slightly shaken up after the break-in, their strong support system made their recovery from the incident a lot easier.

Slaton said everyone from friends, family and neighbors, to police and the fire department, as well as their landlord and the university, have since reached out and shown support.

“It showed me the extent of support we have here in Winona, the sheer number of friends and family members and even our office manager,” Slaton said. “I have a friend who works in security and he got ahold of me an hour later and said, ‘If you need anything the dean of students would love to talk to you guys. They’re willing to help you guys out if you need any clothes replaced, furniture, stuff like that.’”

Menchaca added since the break-in, she and Slaton have also turned to humor to help cope with the situation.

“Dené and I feel fine,” Menchaca said. “We’re trying to take it light-hearted. He could’ve been aggressive; thank goodness he wasn’t.”

Slaton, in fact, recalled a moment during the break-in that now makes her laugh thinking about it.

“The wildest part is as we were going down the stairs, he’s got our massive jug of soap, dumping it on the floor and on his body and he’s like, ‘You guys are good, I’m gonna stay,’” Slaton said with a grin, “You can’t help but laugh about it.”

Miller is currently on bond at the Winona County Jail and is awaiting his next court appearance.   

Contributed by Winona County Detention Center
Steven Edward