Wrong place? Accused explains B&E charge at Miller's


Reyn Snelling alleges the door to Miller's was unlocked.
PHOTO BY LISA PROVENCE

Her late-night arrest inside Charlottesville's venerable jazz bar and restaurant provoked the Hook to name Reyn Louise Snelling the "most dedicated Miller's patron." The 46-year-old UC Berkeley grad, however, says the events the night of May 25 are no laughing matter, and there's a perfectly good explanation for why police found her inside the downtown restaurant and bar about three hours after closing time.

"The door was open," says Snelling, "and I went inside."

For Snelling, what followed turned into nightmare and she was charged with what she says is someone else's crime. And because she'd just had a tiff with her boyfriend, there was nobody to post her $250 bail, so she remained in jail for eight days, including her birthday.

The police report for May 25, which her attorney copied at the Charlottesville Commonwealth Attorney's office, indicates that Officer G.E. Wade responded to an alarm activation at Miller's at 4:42am. After a manager arrived to unlock the front door, the officer found evidence of a crime.

Police spotted a broken window in a door on the third floor, another broken window in a second-floor bathroom, and drops of what appeared to be blood around the cash register drawer. Police seized the drawer and a carton of cigarettes for forensic testing.

Snelling says she's looking forward to the results of such tests because they'll exonerate her. Police say results have not come back from the state lab.

Another clue that appears to be good news for Snelling– certainly as a lone alleged burglar– is a further detail from the police report. It seems that whoever broke in tripped Miller's security system, and in response, alarm company ADT placed a telephone call to the restaurant.

A man who answered the phone identified himself as "Jeff Donaley," a Miller's bartender. However, Miller's has no such bartender.

"Once I got this police report," says Snelling, "it all became perfectly clear." The police report notes that Snelling made no statement when she was arrested.

Snelling believes that someone broke in, was cut on the window glass, and left after finding no cash in the drawer. Miller's manager, Mike London, reports that nothing was stolen that evening.

Snelling says the evening began with the farewell concert at Satellite Ballroom but deteriorated into a spat with her boyfriend. She says she caught a cab downtown and paced the streets, unhappy and alone.

A former Miller's regular, Snelling says she entered the bar and knocked on the office door, unaware that police were upstairs processing a crime scene. As she headed upstairs, she was met on the stairway by Officer Wade, who arrested her.

"Because I was stressed out, I didn't think it was as late as it was," says Snelling. "Now I know why the door was open. Police were already there."

Because of a previous public swearing/intoxication conviction (which Snelling blames on "my big mouth"), she's having trouble putting her clinical psychology degree to use as a mental health worker. She says she's unemployed and practically indigent, and the breaking and entering charge is adding insult to injury. A hearing is slated for September 4.

"At the very most I was trespassing," she says. "I wasn't doing it on purpose."

9 comments

She sounds as though she needs a vacation, although she's unemployed. Perhpas she should consider visiting family some time in the near future.

You can now be hired in mental health in Virginia if you have a criminal record due to substance or alcohol abuse and are now in recovery. Maybe some AA chips would help in obtaining employment and in keeping out of unfortunate situations? AA is free. And a healthy liver is priceless.

It's hared to tell from the limited facts here, but she sounds like a somewhat unstable person that just got very harshly punished for walking into a bar. If the door was open, how was it B&E?

While it is true she was only convicted once for Drunk in Public, it appears that she has been arrested 3 times for this offense. I hope she gets the help she needs

"...that just got very harshly punished for walking into a bar." At 4:30 AM? Are you Dan1101 saying it's fine for anybody to walk into unlocked premises any time day or night?
I think it's also important not to try to provide mental health diagnoses by just reading this article.

Would love to meet for drinks if you're feeling like a rebound. Possible LTR

She stated that she didn't realize it was 4:30 AM. Plus if the police were in there, I would think all the lights would be on. If they didn't want anyone to come in, they should have locked the front door.

I don't see how it would be Breaking and Entering, it's Entering at worst. I suspect the charges against her will be dropped by the judge.

Cville Eye, What criminal intent was there? B&E requires both trespassing and criminal intent. At most this is trespassing. The fact that the police were already there when she entered. Could also be played as a concerned citizen. In any event, the charges should be dropped, because the DA will have a hard time finding a jury to convict on the B&E changes.