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Caught-naked burglar sentenced to five years probation

The Duluth burglar who was arrested in the nude after a homeowner caught him in the act and stripped him of his clothes while fighting received a sentence of five years supervised probation Wednesday and was ordered to complete chemical dependency treatment and another rehabilitative program.

Keith Cochise Bellanger, 20, pleaded guilty in St. Louis County District Court earlier this month to a felony count of first-degree burglary. A second felony burglary count was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

As conditions of his probation, Sixth Judicial District Judge Mark Munger ordered Bellanger to spend six months in the Northeast Regional Corrections Center and then to enter the Teen Challenge program, which focuses on spiritual and emotional wellness and overcoming rebellion and self-destructive behavior.

"Our best wishes would be for him to turn himself around and just go down the straight and narrow,'' said Wayne Boniface, the 69-year-old man who confronted Bellanger in his Observation Hill neighborhood home.

"I just hope all the best for him in that direction. Kathie [Boniface's wife] and I and the judge were willing to give him that chance.''

A 68-month prison sentence was stayed and Bellanger was given credit for the 258 days he has spent in jail.

The Bonifaces returned from dinner at a neighbor's home shortly after 8 p.m. on Sept. 6 to find Bellanger in their house. Kathie Boniface asked the burglar who he was.

"I'm with the FBI and you are blowing my cover,' the burglar said.

When Wayne Boniface got done with the intruder, he had no cover.

After a more than five-minute scuffle with Wayne Boniface, Bellanger lost all his clothes and ran out of the West Ninth Street home nude.

Bellanger had a blood-alcohol content of .22 -- almost three times the legal limit for driving -- when he was arrested by Duluth police.

During Bellanger's five-year probation he is ordered to abstain from the use of alcohol and nonprescribed drugs, and he's subject to random testing to detect drug or alcohol use.

He must also remain law abiding. He was given credit for time served for several unrelated misdemeanor convictions for which he was also sentenced on Wednesday.

The burglary received media attention throughout the land.

Wayne Boniface estimated that he did 15 or 16 interviews with talk radio stations throughout the United States and Canada after the News Tribune reported his confrontation with the home burglar.

Boniface said he was initially able to find some humor in the situation, but the incident has caused some lingering concern.

"Our bedroom used to be in the front and our guest room in the back,'' he said. "Now we have moved to the back because the slamming of car doors and horns wake us up. It bothers us. We're not frightened, but concerned. He did take a sense of security away from us. He tried to rob us of our possessions, but he robbed us of our freedom and lack of worry.''

Boniface said Bellanger told him and his wife that he had tried five or six times to write a letter of apology to them but that he didn't know what to say.

"His problem is alcohol or drugs,'' Boniface said. "He's getting one last chance and that is acceptable to us.''