SHEPHERD, MI — The kids were home alone. Their dad had stepped out and would be back shortly. But in the few minutes before he returned, their quiet world was upended by a terrifying visit.
It was just before 10 p.m. Wednesday. Acelin Persyn was sitting in the living room inside her family’s small house in Shepherd, a tiny, mid-Michigan town where most people know most everyone else and few lock their doors when they leave. The Persyns’ house sits on South Mission Road, a narrow strip of dirt that runs between miles of frozen fields, farmhouses and winter-idled tractors.
Acelin, a round-faced 11-year-old, was playing with 2-year-old brother Angus Persyn. James Persyn III, a shy 14-year-old with shaggy hair, was in his bedroom with the TV cranked loud to drown out the noise of his younger siblings in the other room.
Their father, James Persyn Jr., 36, had left to pick up his fiancée, Tiffany Ramon, 28. Her shift had just ended at her family’s business, J & M Produce and Nursery, only a few miles away.
Suddenly, the children heard frantic banging on their front door and a woman’s panicked screams.
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