What to Know
- The husband and wife were at their apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant when at least two masked men burst in
- The couple was tied up and pillows were placed over their heads, sources said
- The woman broke free and called police; her husband was pronounced dead at an area hospital
The 100-year-old Brooklyn woman who escaped from violent home invaders in an episode that left her husband dead told family she forgives her captors, just as an NYPD dragnet tries to reign in the suspects.
But Ethlin Brumley Thompson's family told News 4 that the woman doesn't want to believe the love of her, Waldiman Thompson, life is gone after the break-in at their home in Bedford-Stuyvesant Wednesday afternoon.
"She said she forgives whoever did this," said Dorene Hunter, the couple's niece. "I don't know how she has the courage to say that."
It comes after police found surveillance video from around the couneighborhood that may show the two or more masked suspects responsible for breaking into the Thompsons' ground-floor apartment, pulling pillowcases over the couple's heads and tying them up.
Law enforcement sources also told News 4 that NYPD crime scene units were making a second pass through the home on Thursday night after Ethlin Brumley Thompson walked through the home and noticed things that were out of place.
The 99-year-old woman was able to escape while the burglars tossed her home, and got away to call 911. When officers arrived, the woman met them and said her husband was still in the home.
"The officers entered her apartment and found her 91-year-old husband tied up and lying on the floor," NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Kemper said at a press conference. "He was unresponsive."
Although the officers performed CPR, Waldiman Thompson was pronounced dead after he arrived at Interfaith Medical Center. Medical examiners later told DNAinfo that the man had heart disease and high blood pressure and the stress of the break-in caused him to have a heart attack.
Authorities said the burglars ransacked the home -- but it’s not clear if anything was taken.
A witness told NBC 4 New York that Ethlin Brumley Thompson frantically came running out of the home pleading for help.
“She came running out but she never ran to me like this," Paul Peterson of Bed-Stuy said. "She said somebody just tied me and my husband up and robbed us and said please use your phone.”
Ethlin Brumley was taken to the same hospital for injuries to her legs and for observation.
Neighbors say the couple lived on the street for decades, and they were often seen sitting in their garden, waving to passersby.
"They're very nice, respectable people," said Sharon Lyons. "I hope they find the people responsible for this."
Ethlin and Wadiman sat side by side in front of their brownstone every day, giving compliments to neighbors -- together, always together, in the words of The New York Times.
"All they had was each other," their 34-year-old tenant Anil Lopez told the Times. He said he called them "Mom" and "Pops" -- and they called each other "honey."
Every morning, Ethlin would carry out a chair for her husband so he could sit and shake hands with neighbors as they left for work, another neighbor told the Times. They took care of the property together.
Wadiman was from Jamaica and loved to tell stories about his island-hopping days. Ethlin was born in Costa Rica and worked there as a teacher; in New York, she ran a group for disabled men out of her home and taught Bible study, according to the Times. She had a picture of former President Barack Obama on her wall, alongside pictures of her with city officials and activists. Her husband bragged about her civic goodness to anyone who would listen, the Times reports.
The couple’s niece, Karlene Grose, said she was watching the news and saw her aunt and uncle’s home on the screen and realized her uncle had been killed by the burglars.
“When I saw that, ‘Oh my God,’” she said. “It breaks me heart to see my uncle died, he was like a father to me, he grew me up in Jamaica.”
Grose said the Thompsons had been married for decades, and now Ethlin Brumley will be without her partner.
“To see my uncle go like this, someone has to be punished,” Grose said.
Still, family members say that Ethlin Brumley told them from her hospital bed that she forgives the robbers.
Another one of the Thompsons' great nieces, Jerlene Thorne, said that Ethlin's faith is what has been keeping her going the last two days.
"She's hurt, we're all hurt," Thorne said. "But for her she just believes in her Lord and Savior. That's really important to her right now."
Anyone with information about the home invasion should call NYPD Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.