The attacker reportedly broke a rear window in a home in the 200 block of Crestmont Terrace, then forced his way inside an adjacent dwelling and attacked the couple within. Police are still looking for leads.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 24, 2020
A daylight burglary in Collingswood quickly escalated into a home invasion, stabbing, robbery, and arson Sunday afternoon, and police are still searching for the man responsible.
According to a family friend, the incident began as an attempted burglary on two closely connected properties in the 200 block of Crestmont Terrace.
Menashe Mizrachi said he arrived at 10 a.m. Sunday morning to help the homeowner, a friend, work on his boat.
The two left for about four hours but were jolted from their work when a call came in from the man’s wife that the home next door, where their daughter and her boyfriend live, had been set ablaze. When they came back to the block, it was full of first responders.
According to Mizrachi, the attacker initially attempted to enter the rear of the main house by smashing a window with a landscaping stone.
“I was the first one to enter the house,” he said. “That’s where I saw shattered glass.”
After hurling the rock inside, Mizrachi believes the intruder stood on some old pallet wood to boost himself into the window. The stone hit the toilet and broke the shower door, but didn’t leave enough opportunity for the man to get inside, Mizrachi said.
Instead, the man walked across to the smaller home next door, asked for a cup of water, and then forced himself into the property, Mizrachi said. The man then tied up the woman who’d answered the door, and proceeded into their home.
Once inside, Mizrachi said the attacker slashed her boyfriend’s throat and stabbed him in the stomach, stole their credit cards, and set fire to the building.
If the woman hadn’t been able to free herself from the bonds and call 9-1-1, they might both have perished, he said.
Collingswood Fire Lieutenant Julian D’Alonzo entered the building and retrieved the stabbing victim, said Collingswood Fire Chief Keith Davis.
“We got there with smoke showing,” the chief said.
Davis said the stabbing victim was in critical condition when he was transported Sunday.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Colby Gallagher, Public Information Officer for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO), said both residents are receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered during the incident.
According to Mizrachi, the stabbing victim is in stable condition today after having spent much of Sunday in the operating room. Both the couple and their relatives next door are in shock, however.
“I think it’s going to be a long-term effect,” he said. “This neighborhood is very, very peaceful. I think everybody is surprised.”
The quiet cul-de-sac terminates in a stone staircase leading out to South Park Drive and Cooper River Park. On Monday morning, it was still roped off with caution tape.
Those stairs were the egress for EMTs to transport the stabbing victim Sunday, said neighbor Bob Holmes.
“They put the fire out very quickly,” Holmes said. “That was it. [Investigators] were here all night.”
Holmes, who’s lived on the block for 58 years, said he was saddened but unsurprised by the attack.
“To me, it’s normal for this age,” he said. “We’ve turned from God. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s going to get worse.”
Holmes’ next-door neighbor, Catherine Conaghan, has lived there for 40 years. She viewed the incident as an isolated event.
“I think it’s random,” Conaghan said.
Nonetheless, she said, many of her neighbors are thinking of investing in security cameras. The suspect in the case remains at large.
Meanwhile, investigators don’t have much to go on other than one victim’s descriptions: a thin man with a short beard and dark hair.
He was last seen wearing a yellow winter hat and a yellow-and-black zip-up sweatshirt.
Police are asking anyone in the area of South Park Drive who might have security footage from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday to contact CCPO Det. Mike Batista (856-676-8175), Collingswood Police Sgt. William Lyons (609-868-0266), or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Surveillance footage can give you really good information,” Gallagher said. “We’re happy to look at the footage.”
Residents should expect additional police presence in the area over the next few days, as investigators conduct interviews and search for leads, she said. Authorities are asking residents to report any suspicious activity, and to remain vigilant.
“Even if you don’t live in that neighborhood, be aware of your surroundings,” Gallagher said. “If there’s ever something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s not a bother [for police to look into it.]”
In a statement, Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley asked residents to be patient while the investigation plays out.
“This is a tragic and upsetting incident in our community,” Maley said. “Please know that we are as vigilant as ever about keeping Collingswood safe and keeping everyone informed. We will try to continue to provide updates and if you have questions or concerns you would like to reach us about, do not hesitate.”
To sign up for the Camden County Reverse 911 System, through which law enforcement communicates with residents during an event such as Sunday’s incident, click here.
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