By JOE D'AQUILA
HAMILTON -- A 99-year-old woman and her 82-year-old son were the victims of a home invasion-type robbery in the Yardville section of the township yesterday afternoon.
No one was injured and no weapons were used, but the attack turned out to be a big score for the robbers who made off with over $100,000, according to police.
The home-invasion occurred after 3 p.m. on the first block of Soden Drive. The names of the victims are being withheld for their protection.
Police said the mother and son, who live together in the home, were working with investigators last night. The victims described their attackers as three males, possibly Hispanic or gypsies, who arrived on the scene in a white pick-up truck with a yellow ladder in a rack.
Hamilton Det. Sgt. Anthony Recine was on the scene and recreated the events of the robbery according to the victims' account.
He said the thieves first approached the son, supposedly inquiring about three tires he had for sale on the front lawn. One of the men started talking to the son and brought him out into the backyard.
He said the thief told the son they were in the area because they were going to be doing some work along a neighbor's fence line there.
The robber-to-be then told the homeowner he noticed there was a problem with his air conditioning unit, acting as though he was looking for more work, while he actually had another motive in mind, Recine said.
And while the son was occupied in the backyard, Recine said, another man entered the house. This man began speaking to the mother, who was sitting on the couch.
While mother and son were distracted, a third man, Recine said, slipped in through the back and made his way into the bedrooms. The third man then found a safe in one of the rooms and dragged it out into the hallway.
He said the men in the house first told the mother to open the safe, but she said she didn't know the combination.
By this time the first robber came into the house bringing the son with him and ordered him to open the safe.
Recine said the victim told investigators that the thieves had no weapons but that there was an implied threat of violence throughout the ordeal.
"The one guy says to him (the son), 'you better do what he says, he's crazy,'" Recine said the victims told him.
The threat of violence was then realized as Recine said the men pushed the mother and shoved the son to the ground in their attempts to get them to open the safe.
But through all this, the quick-thinking 99-year-old, who neighbors described as "sharp," was the one who called 911 herself from an unlikely place.
"The mother stated she had to go to the bathroom, and says, 'I'm going to pee right here if you don't let me go to the bathroom,' because she knew there was phone in the bathroom," Recine said.
He said the robbers let the mother go into the bathroom, but her fight to call for help wasn't over.
"He wouldn't shut the door, and she says, 'I can't pee in front of you,' and then she forced the door shut," he said.
He said the mother was then able to call the police from inside the bathroom, but the safe had already been opened and the thieves were soon on their way out the door.
"The son opened it because he didn't want them to hurt the mother," he said.
Recine said the cash amount taken from the safe could possibly be over $100,000. An unknown value amount of jewelry was also taken and that the thieves took the three tires from the lawn that had given them access to the house in the first place.
While he said the case was still under investigation, Recine said the job looked professional and that he's seen it all before.
"They're probably more than likely gypsies, and they do this constantly," he said. "They have a set routine, they know what houses to look for."
He said professional thieves in a robbery like yesterday's will look for the simplest things to tip them off to an easier target.
And while no one was hurt in the incident, an ambulance was sent to the scene following the robbery.
This is yet another case about "gypsies" being accused of something of which, so far, there is no proof as to whether any Gypsy was involved at all. Furthermore, though not being a trained criminologist, something does not ring true with this story. The making of the 911 call from the lavatory is just a little strange.