Five armed men broke into a home in a wealthy North Branford neighborhood, tied up the family for hours and threatened to kidnap a 3-year-old boy in the house if they didn't get money, police said Monday.
When the intruders left, the homeowner initially could not find his grandson and raced over to his son's house on the same street to tell him the child had been kidnapped, said Tom Martone, the homeowner's son.
"My heart started really pounding," Martone said.
As his wife called 911, Martone said his son came walking up the driveway with the other victims. He was found in a different room than where he normally sleeps.
The robbers fled without the boy, and no one was injured.
Martone said he felt "complete relief" as he hugged his son.
The home invasion took place in the Northford section of the New Haven suburb. It's about 15 miles from Cheshire, where a notorious home invasion occurred in 2007. In that case, a prominent doctor and his family were tied up. Dr. William Petit was beaten but managed to escape. He ran to a neighbor's house for help, but his wife was strangled and his two daughters were killed after the house was set on fire.
In the latest home invasion, the intruders wore hoodies and bandannas across their faces as they broke into the home through a garage door at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday. They fled hours later in the family's pickup truck, which was found abandoned nearby, police said. Authorities haven't located the suspects, who made off with a shotgun, liquor and other items.
Martone said his mother, who was watching television, heard a noise in the garage and thought it was her husband. Suddenly a man grabbed her, put his hand over her face and told her not to scream, he said.
Martone said his sister was in the shower when the intruders broke in and took her out at gunpoint. He said she was forced to lie face down on the floor of the basement with a handgun pressed against the back of her neck.
The women, who were tied up with zip ties the robbers brought with them, couldn't open a large safe, so the robbers waited for Martone's father to arrive home. They asked about his age and size, Martone said.
When Martone's father arrived home around 1 a.m., he was taken at gunpoint in the garage and tied up in the basement with his wife and daughter, police said. But he was unable to open the safe, either because he was too nervous or it had gone into a lock mode, Martone said.
The robbers threatened to kidnap his grandson and return the following day for money, Martone said. Martone said his father and sister pleaded with the suspects to take them instead.
Martone said his father also offered to help the men move the safe, which weighed about 700 pounds, and they agreed but it was too heavy to get out of the basement.
The men wound up taking jewelry and homemade sauce his parents made, Martone said.
The victims called 911 at about 3 a.m. Monday after the men fled.
Martone described his father, a mason, as a hard-working Italian immigrant. The father and son built their houses and moved into the neighborhood about a decade ago.
"For what happened, they're doing all right, shaken up, they're scared," said Det. Sgt. Ken McNamara. "Thank God they weren't hurt."