Judge imposes prison sentence for ‘phrogging’ burglar who broke into at least 3 Cedar City homes

Fifth District Courthouse, Cedar City, Utah, April 15, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY— A 20-year-old Cedar City man who pleaded guilty to burglary, criminal mischief and trespassing charges following a series of residential break-ins last November was recently sentenced to prison in connection with the case.

Brayden Woodhouse was sentenced on March 6 in 5th District Court by Judge Matthew L. Bell, who imposed one term of 1-15 years for a second-degree felony burglary count, one term of 0-5 years for a third-degree felony count of criminal mischief and two terms of 364 days in jail for two counts of criminal trespassing, each a class A misdemeanor. 

The court ordered that the terms be served concurrently, meaning that Woodhouse is to be incarcerated for at least one year and for as long as 15 years, with the length of the sentence determined by the Utah Board of Pardons.

As previously reported, Woodhouse was apprehended on Nov. 17, 2022, by Cedar City Police detectives, who had followed tips that led them to suspect Woodhouse’s involvement.

The break-ins had taken place earlier that month in the residential neighborhoods surrounding Cedar Ridge Golf Course. At least three different homes were broken into, authorities said.

Cedar City Police detective Jake Hoyt testified at Woodhouse’s preliminary hearing on Dec. 5 saying that the activity is sometimes known as “phrogging,” or occupying someone else’s home without them knowing.

Brayden Woodhouse and defense attorney Troy Sundquist address the court during sentencing hearing, Cedar City, Utah, March 6, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Hoyt said that surveillance footage from doorbell cameras had shown the suspect, wearing a hoodie, mask and gloves. 

“Mr. Woodhouse, at that point, admitted that it was him that was going into the houses,” Hoyt testified during the preliminary hearing. “I took him into the house and he showed me the gloves, the mask, and the hoodie he was wearing that were (seen) in the videos obtained from the Ring cameras.”

On Jan. 23, a few weeks after the preliminary hearing, Woodhouse pleaded guilty to four of the charges, with the other three being dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

At the March 6 sentencing, defense attorney Troy Sundquist asked the court for leniency, saying the charges were Woodhouse’s first criminal charges as an adult. He said that treatment and counseling would better address his client’s behavioral issues.

“I just hope to get probation. I don’t want to go to prison,” Woodhouse said as he addressed the court briefly. He also submitted a handwritten letter of apology to his victims, in which he stated that he was sorry for breaking into their houses “in those late nights on your computer for some hours that I don’t know how long in there, watching porn on your computer.”

Iron County Attorney Chad Dotson said Woodhouse’s behavior was different from that of a typical burglar. Unlike most burglars, who typically break into unoccupied homes to steal items in order to make money, Dotson said Woodhouse would enter homes during late night or early morning hours while the occupants were asleep.

Brayden Woodhouse at his sentencing hearing, Cedar City, Utah, March 6, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Phrogging — I had to look it up- – is the the act of secretly living or walking around somebody’s home while they’re there,” Dotson told the court. “One of the things that he did in this case was, in the middle of the night, he would access the computers of these residents and access pornography in close proximity to where people were sleeping.”

Dotson argued in favor of prison time, pointing to Woodhouse’s history of similar offenses before he turned 18.

“He’s not been successful previously,” Dotson said, referring to Woodhouse’s multiple probation opportunities as a juvenile. 

Shortly before imposing the sentence, Judge Bell addressed Woodhouse, saying, “You’ve victimized a number of people, you’ve damaged their property, you’ve violated their privacy in an intrusive way and you really impacted their sense of safety in their own homes.”

“And it’s not a singular event here,” the judge added. “You’ve got a pattern. You’ve repeated these offenses in this case, and it’s a repeat of the offense you committed just before you turned 18. Plus, you’ve got a history of assaultive behavior. Keeping you in a restrictive setting has not tempered that behavior.”

Bell then handed down the sentence, noting that all four terms would run concurrently and be served at the Utah State Prison. The court did not impose any fines or fees, but Woodhouse was ordered to pay $1,334 in restitution.

Bell also recommended that Woodhouse be given any available opportunities for treatment and counseling while in prison, and advised him of his right to appeal his sentence within 30 days.

Shortly after the sentencing, Dotson issued the following written statement to Cedar City News:

A person’s home is their castle and should be their sanctuary from the outside world. There are few things more unsettling than a midnight intruder who gets pleasure from sneaking around a person’s home while a family sleeps. Woodhouse did this on multiple occasions and deprived his victims of their peace of mind and sense of security. Woodhouse’s actions and juvenile history suggest that he would pose a continued danger to our community. Iron County is safer with him in prison.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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