NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was a crime that sparked fear and outrage – an elderly Brooklyn couple, ages 100 and 91 – tied up in their own home.
Ethlin Thompson, 100, spoke exclusively with CBS2’s Alice Gainer.
WEB EXCLUSIVE: Alice Gainer’s Extended Interview With Ethlin Thompson
“No sound,” she said. “The big hand choking me; the big, big fat hands choking me, choking me! (Gasping) ‘If you talk, I’ll kill you! If you call, I’ll kill you!’”
Ethlin Thompson said she was sitting on her bed, her husband sleeping next to her. All of a sudden, there were hands around her neck.
“I thought I died,” she said.
It was the afternoon of Oct. 11. The couple had just enjoyed some soup in their Decatur Street apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“The last thing he said to me was he had to rest, so he lied down, you know?” Ethlin Thompson said.
She believes whoever broke into their apartment used something to knock them out. When she came to, her husband was no longer next to her.
“God helped me to reach the scissors — take these scissors and cut them down,” Ethlin Thompson said.
Her legs and hands were bound, so she used some nearby scissors to free herself. She looked off and saw Waldiman on the ground two rooms away.
“The last time I saw him he was laying here,” Ethlin Thompson said. “I saw him laying down, but I never knew if he was alive or he was dead.”
She went to the front door.
“I said: ‘Sir, call 91! Call 91!’” Ethlin Thompson said.
She said she does not remember being taken to the hospital, but she does remember hearing voices around her.
“I heard someone said, ‘Her husband’s dead, you know. He died… don’t tell her.’”
It was then when she learned that her husband of 27 years had died after going into cardiac arrest.
“Miss him to my heart. Miss him, miss him,” Ethlin Thompson said.
Thompson recalled when she first met her husband. She said it was literally a godsend.
“And I heard a voice say from heaven, the voice said: ‘You see the man you pass by there? Turn back,” she said.
Then 70, she invited Waldiman Thompson to church. Faith became the center of their union, and they began each morning with a prayer.
“He was a good, good husband. He never fuss — always so kind and loving — and the church people love him so much,” Ethlin Thompson said.
Ethlin Thompson even sleeps with three Bibles under their pillow. She has also turned to religion since her husband has been gone.
And even though she did not get to say goodbye to husband Waldiman, she strongly believes she will see him again.
Ironically, when she was sitting on her bed that day when the suspects broke in, she said she had something religious in her lap.
“So then that bag fell on the floor with the Ten Commandments — thou shalt not kill,” she said.
It is her faith that also gives her the ability to forgive the three people arrested in the case. She even has a New York Daily News cover with a perp walk picture of one suspect, Suzette Troutman, 45, on the wall.
She said the picture is there “to remember the name of her. To remember name and pray for her, why I put it there — asking God to forgive her.”
Troutman, a woman who once a week had brought the Thompsons to doctors’ appointments or shopping, was arrested for allegedly stealing cash out of a safe that Troutman herself purchased form the couple.
Not only does Ethlin Thompson forgive the suspects, she does not want anyone’s pity.
“‘Poor thing, poor thing,’ like they’re sorry for you. I don’t like it. Walk with me,” she said. “The Lord said, ‘Be not afraid,’ so I’m not afraid anymore.”
Details in court documents revealed that police caught Troutman on surveillance video allegedly picking up her nephew – Dwayne Blackwood, 27 – and a third suspect – Howard Morris, 43 – in a sport-utility vehicle shortly before the incident.
Detectives said the footage shows Troutman drop off the men near the Thompsons’ home where inside, police say they tied up Mr. Thompson with a cord and sheet over his head and restrained his wife with a belt.
After finding the couple’s lock box with $5,000 cash, investigators say the two men left. Police said Morris was seen on surveillance video with the lock box.
Police said surveillance video then shows Troutman with a small child in the SUV pick up the men and drive them from the robbery scene back to her nephew’s home, where they are seen taking their stash, including the lock box, inside.
And although Ethlin Thompson initially spent 13 nights away from the apartment, she returned to that very same home where so much fear and terror gripped her that horrible afternoon in December.
Ethlin Thompson will be 101 in a few weeks.