HUDSON — Brian Brohel and Robert Eckes were either watching over their friend's house, protecting it from burglars — or, as authorities say, they were stealing from a dead man.
Lester Caudill was killed Sunday as he and two men tried to purchase oxycodone pills from a street dealer. Someone pulled a gun as the deal was going down, authorities said, and as Caudill, 54, ran toward two men who were struggling over it, he took a gunshot to the chest.
His wife, Linda, traveled to Kentucky this week to bury him.
Meanwhile, about 2 a.m. Thursday, Brohel and Eckes drove to the Caudills' empty house on Neptune Drive and went inside.
Sheriff's investigators say the men, both 31, rummaged through several rooms of the house and stuffed more than $800 cash in their pockets. When deputies arrived and surrounded the house, the two men hid — Brohel in the attic, Eckes in the garage.
A police dog sniffed them out.
Both were charged with residential burglary.
Brohel refused to talk to investigators other than to say he had driven to Caudill's house in his girlfriend's car.
"I'll beat this charge," he said, according to a deputy's report.
Eckes claims he and Brohel were there on an altruistic mission.
He said they got a call that someone was snooping around the house. Eckes said he knew Caudill, whom he called "LC," before he died.
When they got to the house, he said, the front and back doors were unlocked, so they went inside to make sure no one was there. The place had already been ransacked.
And the next thing they knew, Eckes said, there were cops surrounding the house.
"I saw you guys outside, got scared and hid," he told the deputy. "I was scared because it looks bad on us."
Eckes, who lives at 13105 Wagner Dr. in Hudson, recently got out of prison after serving a five-year sentence for robbery, state records show. He also faced previous charges of burglary, grand theft and trespassing.
Brohel, who lives next door to Eckes, pleaded guilty in 2000 in federal court to producing child pornography and agreed to testify against two others involved. Authorities said they found videotapes of the men having sex with juvenile girls in St. Petersburg. The federal judge allowed Brohel to enter a Christian work camp while he awaited sentencing, telling Brohel, "I'm taking a chance on you."
Since serving his time in that case, Brohel has been arrested on charges including DUI, disorderly conduct and battery, according to state records.
This latest case, Eckes said, is just a misunderstanding.
"It's okay though because I know the owner," he told a deputy, "and if I could talk to her I could straighten this out."