ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) –– Police have a suspect in custody in the case of a 92-year-old woman murdered inside her own house.
Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow announced Monday that Daniel Rios, 38, was charged in the murder of Annette Hempel inside her Elizabeth home.
The prosecutor said Rios knocked on the door and when Hempel opened it he pushed himself in.
“She attempted to scream. He put his hand on her face and pushed her a distance into the living room, onto the floor and then he strangled her,” Romankow said. “He acknowledged that he did this, killed this lady.”
Investigators told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan that Rios walked away with only $360 worth of coins that he took over to a machine at a grocery store and turned into bills. Detectives said Rios had burglarized dozens of homes since January, including one by Hempel’s house, an incident resulting in him being chased by neighbors.
“He would walk home to home, ring door bells. If occupants didn’t answer he would break into their homes,” Elizabeth Police Det. Thomas Koczur said.
Detectives said Hempel was the only victim who made the mistake of opening the door to Rios, a man with a lengthy criminal past that includes burglary and drugs.
“It’s good he’s arrested for what he did. She’s 92 years old. She didn’t deserve this,” neighbor Louis Mojsea said.
Neighbors said even at her advanced age Hempel, who lived with her sister and walked to mass at this church every weekend, was energetic.
“She was always doing something. My brother saw her gardening in the backyard. She would walk to the grocery store and get the paper,” neighbor Fran Bullosa added.
Rios’ last known address is in Elizabeth, but no one answered the door.
“I am afraid we didn’t know. I didn’t see him,” neighbor Julia Calderon said.
Rios was being held on $1 million bail. He’s expected to make his first appearance in court this week.
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