91-year-old woman fights off intruder in her New Jersey home

Thursday, January 19, 2017
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Rob Nelson reports on a great-grandmother who fought back against an intruder in New Jersey.

NORTHFIELD, New Jersey -- A 91-year-old great-grandmother put up quite a fight when her neighbor broke into her New Jersey home.

Residents say he's been terrorizing the Northfield neighborhood for years.

"I thought I heard noise outside, but I thought it was windy," Florence Graham said.

It was close to midnight, and Graham was in her living room watching TV when things got strange. It started with a noise, then she saw a figure moving across her carpet.

"All of a sudden, I'm sitting here and he's crawling on my floor on his belly," she said.

Police say the brazen intruder was Michael Flaherty, a neighbor who'd shoveled her snow on multiple occasions.

"We fought over the phone," she said. "I kept saying to him, 'Get out of here, Michael. Get out of here.'"

Flaherty ran off with cash from Graham's purse, leaving his cell phone behind.

"He got over $ 1,000 and got my rings and my bracelets," she said.

Police arrived minutes after.

"An elderly woman, 91 years of age, answered the door," Northfield Police Captain Steve Steinecke said. "She had blood on her robe, blood on her hands, blood on her forehead."

And this may not be the first time the 35-year-old robbed his victim. Neighbors say they saw the suspect leaving Graham's home this past weekend while she was away.

"He broke into one other home, two houses away, where he was doing some work for the people, and he went in and robbed them as well," neighbor Dennis Sabella said.

Police later found Flaherty hiding in his bedroom and arrested him.

"There's got to be a special place in hell for him," Steinecke said. "You just don't do that."

But for this great grandmother, what's done is done, and she says she's ready to move on.

"I'll get over it, I hope," she said.

Police say Flaherty has a history of drug-related crime. Residents are hoping he's put away for a long time this time, and they're also saying they're going to try to do a better job of looking out for each other.