Robbers invade Modesto home, hogtie widow, 80

03/27/2012 12:19 PM

03/27/2012 9:21 PM

A Modesto widow was bound with duct tape and robbed inside her home a few blocks south of Creekside Golf Course on Tuesday morning.

The 80-year-old victim wasn't injured, but was traumatized by the home invasion.

The woman, whose legs, arms and mouth were bound, got free after the two robbers left. They entered the house sometime after 10 a.m. and were inside for more than an hour, according to Modesto police Lt. Rick Armendariz.

The woman went to her next-door neighbor's house for help.

"Once I saw the duct tape, I flipped out," said neighbor James Witt.

Witt's father called police while he went into the victim's home to make sure it was clear and found that it had been ransacked.

Witt said all of the rooms in the single-story house had been trashed. A bar stool apparently had been used by the robbers to secure the front door while they searched the home.

Nearby residents said the incident is one of the most shocking crimes to occur in their neighborhood, in large part because of who the victim is.

"It makes me so disgusted that someone could do this to her," said Carol Smith, who lives across the street from the victim. "She's just such a sweetheart. She makes you feel good when you see her."

Smith said the woman was one of the first residents on the block to introduce herself when Smith and her four children moved to the street several years ago. Smith said her children consider the woman their grandmother.

When police arrived about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, the woman still had duct tape dangling from her wrists. She was being comforted by Witt and another neighbor, who helped her call her bank to cancel her credit cards.

The robbers took the woman's purse and her silver PT Cruiser with license plate number 4NGN459. Police said the robbers were a man and a woman, but investigators had no further descriptions.

Armendariz said detectives are investigating whether the woman was targeted or if the crime was random. He said there has been a recent spike in residential burglaries that generally occur during the day.

Thieves usually burglarize a home during the day because they expect nobody to be home, Armendariz said. But it was unclear if that's why the woman's home was broken into Tuesday.

James Witt and his parents, Gary and Yvonne, have lived in the neighborhood for about two decades. They said it's not as safe as it once was, with burglaries, drugs and graffiti becoming more common.

James Witt is house-sitting for the victim while she stays with family. Yvonne Witt said Tuesday evening that the woman was still shaken.

"It was very traumatic," she said. "She was in there for an hour and a half with two people who had her hogtied."

But Yvonne Witt said the female robber at least had the tiniest sliver of a heart because she gave the 80-year-old her prescription medication while she and her accomplice held her against her will.

The home invasion occurred several blocks southwest from where three people were shot to death inside a two-story house in the early hours of March 3. Police say they do not believe the triple homicide was random. No one has been arrested in that investigation.

Armendariz said Tuesday's break-in occurred in a neighborhood not accustomed to brazen crime. The farther north you get from heavily trafficked Yosemite Boulevard, the less crime you're likely to see.

"It's kind of pretty quiet neighborhood, tucked away in there," Armendariz said.

In the past week, 26 crimes have been reported in a one-mile radius around the woman's home, according to the police crime-mapping system. The crimes included several calls for disturbing the peace, a few thefts, a vehicle theft, an assault and three burglaries.

Bee staff writers Kevin Valine and Rosalio Ahumada contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at or (209) 578-2366.

Video from the scene

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