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This is an article from when I was working as a stringer for the New York Times, just before I joined the staff of Psychology Today.

The New York Times

Police Get Their Man: From a Chimney


The mystery started around 2 a.m. yesterday when police officers were called to a Manhattan rooftop to chase two suspected burglars.

The footsteps of the police and their quarry pounded back and forth on the roof of the building, at 404 West 40th Street, near Ninth Avenue, in Clinton, neighbors said.

The police caught one of the suspected burglars. But the other? They couldn’t find him.

Puzzled, the police officers left. But the next morning, the police solved the mystery of his disappearance when, shortly before 8 a.m., a woman who lives in the building called them after she heard whimpers and faint cries for help. She believed that one of her neighbors might have injured himself.

“The cops ran up and down and knocked on all the apartments to ask if anyone needed help, but no one needed it,” said Sarah Kodner, 25, a resident of the building.

Then the police told all the neighbors to quiet down. Then they listened very carefully for the cries.

“After a minute they figured out he was in the walls in between the apartments.”

The police then traced the cries to the basement of the building next door. Inside the chimney, dangling over the furnace, was a man yelling for help.

Rescue workers broke through the walls and used ropes to extract him around 9 a.m. When he emerged, the man was shirtless, with his arms pinned above his head. “He was completely covered head-to-toe in soot from the chimney that he was stuck in for I don’t know how many hours,” said Lara Hatcher, 23, a neighbor.

Investigators identified the burglar as Serafin Sanchez, a homeless 25-year-old man. They said he had originally escaped the police by jumping into the chimney — an opening of less than 18 inches square.

“It was kind of cold last night,” said Michael Lehr, 26, a programmer who lives in the building. “He’s lucky they didn’t turn the furnace on.”

When Mr. Sanchez was finally freed, he was hanging inches from the furnace, his arms stretched overhead, the police said.

But Mr. Sanchez was destined for another period of confinement. The police arrested Mr. Sanchez and charged him with burglary.

“The cops thought they were going to help someone who was hurt,” said Mr. Lehr. “Instead, they found Bad Santa.”