A man who threatened an agent with a knife and bear spray at an open house this summer has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Ernest Robert Chrisman, 44, admitted to showing up to an open house in Commerce City, Colorado, on Aug. 4 and pulling a knife on Dawna Hetzler, an agent who runs her own brokerage and has served in the industry for 15 years.

On Friday, a local judge sentenced Chrisman, who had pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, to 16 years in prison.

“He chose to prey on a woman holding an open house for her real estate business and threatened her with a knife,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Patrick Freeman told ABC 7 in Denver. “This is going to leave a lasting scar.”

Chrisman had come to the Aspen Hills Condominiums to visit an open house, but after Hetzler began the tour and reached the second master bedroom he cornered her in the room before pulling out a knife and the bear stray.

Christman demanded Hetzler take off her ring and get inside a nearby closet but, having a concealed carry license, the agent pulled out a gun. Chrisman doused Hetzler with mace but fled after she fired the gun and called 911.

Police located Chrisman using fingerprints he left on the knife and some of the home brochures. He was arrested Aug. 8.

Over the past year, agents have sparked a debate over whether open houses — which often require agents to be alone while receiving strangers in an enclosed space — are still a good way to find buyers and advertise homes. Real estate safety experts advise hosting open houses with a partner, familiarizing yourself with each room’s doors and window, having an alarm activated on one’s phone for easy access, and being trained in basic self-defense to ward off potential attacks.

“She was lucky that she wasn’t hurt worse than she was,” Freeman said. “This was an incredibly violent and premeditated crime which is reflected in his sentence.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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