But their joy turned to terror by day’s end after four men not once, but twice attempted to break into their home on Broderick Way near Niles, while Michele Layher and her daughter were in the home.
"People forget how safe your home is until someone tries to break in," Mike Layher said in court Friday. "It added a huge amount of terror to the family. My 7-year-old son worried there would be another break-in on his birthday."
The fourth and final defendant in the home invasion was sentenced to prison on Friday in Cass County Circuit Court.
Domenik Briggs, 18, of South Bend, was sentenced to 3 to 15 years after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit home invasion in the first degree and home invasion in the first degree. Briggs, who received credit for 80 days served, was also told to pay back $7,898.
Briggs was the alleged "lookout" for the home invasion that occurred Sept. 20 in Milton Township.
Briggs and the three co-defendants reportedly drove to the driveway of the home — unaware two people were inside — and attempted to break in through the backdoor. The four fled the scene when one of the women hit a panic button.
But seeing that police did not show up, the four returned a short time later and attempted to break in again. The men were arrested a short time later.
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said Briggs was involved in up to 10 home invasions around that time in Cass, Berrien and St. Joseph (Ind.) counties.
Fitz described the defendants as sophisticated robbers, with live ammunition in the car and gloves to avoid fingerprints.
"This was a small army of invaders," Fitz said.
"They did this because it was something to do," he added.
Fitz said he believed the four preyed on the Niles area because they thought of it as a "soft target." He said it was Briggs’ fourth breaking and entering conviction.
Layher’s home also was broken into on July 12 last year by a different man.
Briggs, meanwhile, was not sentenced on a second home invasion case from Sept. 14 on Reserve Parkway in Niles.
Because Briggs sentencing guidelines were twice as high as the other three defendants in the case, Dodge did not believe it was fair. Therefore, because the prosecution and defense could not agree on a deal, Dodge revoked the plea deal and scheduled the case to go to trial.
Rahen Prietl and Michael Adams, both of South Bend, were both sentenced to 3 to 20 years. David Sarfo, of South Bend, was given 40 months to 20 years.
In the July 12 case, Melvin Holliday, of Elkhart, was sentenced to 10 to 40 years on several charges, including the break-in at the Layher’s house.
In another case, a 21-year-old Edwardsburg man accused of robbing a man of $900 in cash will spend at least seven years in prison.
Dodge sentenced Nathan Kasper to a seven- to 22 1/2-year term, with credit for 433 days served, on charges of unarmed robbery, conspiracy to commit larceny from a person and larceny from a person, habitual offender second offense.