Elderly woman fakes heart attack during robbery

November 24, 2009 10:30:03 PM PST
Madeline Hawes hasn't skipped a beat in her busy life helping run Buncher's Hardware, her family's mom-and-pop store in Millburn. She is 80 years young and flashing her perfect smile just three days after two masked men broke into her upstairs apartment and demanded cash.

"He said 'Open the safe and give me $500,'" she said. "I said 'No, I'm not gonna give you, I'm not opening the safe because I don't know how. You aren't going to get anything.' So he said, 'Oh yes,' and he had the knife around my neck."

She scared them off and immediately called police and her family.

"She keeps saying she's fine, and she is fine," daughter-in-law Marlene Hawes said. "It's just that the rest of us have not been sleeping. We are a wreck."

Alone in her apartment with the robbers and a knife at her throat, Madeline always had the upper hand because she did not lose her cool.

"And so I said, 'I have to throw up. You have to let me go, I have to throw up,'" she said. "So then I threw myself down on the floor and I said 'I'm having a heart attack.'"

But she was faking. She was fine all along. Her regular customers are just beginning to hear about it.

"I can't believe it," customer Mike said. "I'm very shocked."

Just as heartbreaking for the family is that Hawes pulled the disguise off one of the suspects and saw he was someone the family knows and trusted. But that also made it easy for police to find and arrest 27-year-old Mauro Casiano and 43-year-old Carlos Pena. Each is now charged with burglary and weapons possession.

And Madeline is back where she's supposed to be with her unforgettable smile.